DOING THE REGAL ROCK
Ex-Hoodoo Guru Brad Shepherd
growing up rockist
and life as a Monarch
(Additional photos from the Monarchs official site)
a member of the Hoodoo Gurus, Brad Shepherd scaled the heights of international
prominence. He was an integral part of a band that poured out a heady brew of
perfect guitar pop, rock-infused psych and good old garage trash for a decade-and-a-half.
But his history - and love of rock and roll - goes way back.
A commensurate singles band, the Gurus enjoyed plenty of success at home in Australia, being more responsible than anyone for putting guitar feedback back onto commercial radio. They also made respectable noise on the US college circuit, threatening to break out into the mainstream in a major way before finally calling it a day.
Now working his way back up from square one - with the undeniably hi-energy, and musical, rock-pop of the-soon-to-be-better-known Monarchs - the affable Mr Shepherd is clearly someone who loves life and music with equal degrees of passion and infectious enthusiasm.
Brad kindly took time out from his duties as an impending father-to-be to drop by the Bar recently to shoot the breeze about The Rock, and his life in music. The Barman was there to mix the drinks
Tell me about the Monarchs, for those who haven't seen or heard them yet.
BS: In many ways it's sort of a culmination of everything I've done, musically, in my life. As if the Gurus wasn't enough of a potpourri! Well I've stirred in a lot of the sort of Fun Things/Hitmen angle, inasmuch as the sort of things that influenced the Hitmen like the Blue Oyster Cult and MC5. That's chucked into the vast catalogue of influences the Gurus plundered. I like to think of it as still song-basedÉI think that's the difference between us a lot of regular hard rock bands, (with many of them) there's no real songs at the core of it. A lot of riffing going on. There's no melody, there's not a lot of structure involved. There's a lot of testosterone and posing involved Š which is all good, don't get me wrong, there's plenty of that going on with us too! But I try to infuse the songs with some melody, at least a basic song structure. But, having said that, supercharging the pop direction the songs are coming from with a high octane MC5, Stooges kind of energy.
I-94: What's the song-writing split-up?
BS: It's all me at the moment. I'm hoping that will change very soon. Both Andy (Kelly) and Hitchy (Greg Hitchcock) are gifted songwriters in their own right and it's really for convenience sake. I was sitting around after the demise of the Gurus and wrote a bunch of songs. The logical step was to get a group together to perform them. I'm pretty lazy as a songwriter, though. I was only afforded the luxury of being able to knock those songs out because I had nothing better to do after the Gurus. Now that the band's in place, I will take any distraction I can get to prevent me from sitting down and writing a song. So I would love to collaborate with those guys. Andy Kelly is a particularly hilarious person and a true master of the English language. If you ever log onto the Monarch web site, he's responsible for some of the bulletins that we've posted. By Christ, heÕs a funny guy. And Hitchy, he's such a gifted guitar player. He's got plenty of super riffs lying around as well. Maybe we should just out the two of them together (laughs).
I-94: Was there an adjustment process involved after everything was said and done with the Gurus?
BS: Not that I was aware of at the time. With the luxury of hindsight I can probably look back over the last two years and I was probably freaked out and frightened of what my next step might be. At the time I thought I was just getting on with it and I was pretty good about it, but from this perspective I guess I was standing around scratching my head a bit.
I-94: Did it take a while to get the players for the Monarchs together?
BS: It didnÕt, really. Hitchy and I had been threatening to get a band together. We had this childish drinking game we used to play with Tim Rogers (of You Am I) where, at a show, we'd be at the bar afterwards and, after the appropriate amount of alcohol had been imbibed, weÕd start talking about our supergroup," On". It was just going to be called" On". And unfortunately thereÕs a band in Sydney, a techno-based band, that's taken the name which is a shame. I loved the name.
Hitchy was always in the front of my mind's eye, looking for new players for a band.
And my brother Murray, I knew, was just sitting around on his arse Š not doing what he should be doing, because heÕs a great drummer. And of course that goes back all the way to the Fun Things and the Aliens. He just kept getting better and better. I remember seeing Murray a few years ago in a band called Harpoon and he just scared me, what a monster drummer he'd become. HeÕs an animal!
Andy Kelly, curiously enough, was right under my nose. I knew Andy, in the Gurus, I'd met him through Wayne Connolly, who was with the Welcome Mat and is an engineer around town and is a mate of mine, and Rick Grossman from the Gurus knew Andy as well, and it just didn't occur to me. Then one day I just had this epiphany: Eureka! I'm out of my mind! Andy Kelly: heÕs a great guy, a fantastic songwriter, he sings beautifully and heÕs a monster bass player.
I-94: What was he doing after Glide?
BS: He was doing promo for Shock Records. He wasnÕt even playing. In fact, heÕd sold his gear. HeÕs still using borrowed gear from me! (laughs)
I-94: You've said you want to get into the collaborative songwriting thing. Was that much of the modus operandi of the Gurus? There didn't seem to be a lot of joint credit there.
BS: There weren't and the songs that are credited to both of us, we never really sat down in a room and just worked off each other. Quite often, the songs on the last album proper - "Blue Cave" - we were stuck for some songs and again, my laziness as a songwriter is the point at hand, where I had unfinished songs that I hadn't written lyrics for. I guess "lazy" isn't true, 'cos a lot of bands do that. You know, the lyrics are some sort of amorphous overlay, some vague concept floating around Š unless you're Bob Dylan, I guess. That's the very last thing I do at the finish. And Dave called me up and said: "Let's get together and write some songs" and he came over and said: "What have you got?" I had the melody and the chords and the basic structures to the songs. He just went away and wrote some fantastic lyrics overnight to a bunch of songs.
But quite often that was the way it worked Š him finishing songs that I hadnÕt bothered finishing. There are a couple of songs Š I guess on "Kinky" or something Š where we actually did sit in a room and work some stuff up together, one afternoon. I think in that 15 years we were together, there was one day where Dave and I sat in a room together and tried to co-write. We cam up with four songs that day, incidentally! (laughs)
I-94: It wasn't something you didnÕt try to do on the road?
BS: Couldn't. There are too many distractions but youÕre also not set up. We were never that successful that we could set it up. YouÕve got your suitcase in one hand and your gig bag in the other. That's all you can carry. Unless the road crew were going to start dropping guitars off at the hotel room for you and setting up your recording studio like Fleetwood Mac or something. Writing on the road never worked for the Gurus.
I-94: Let's go back to the early days. You were born in Sydney?
BS: Born in Sydney.
I-94: When did you move to Brisbane?
BS: I was six. 1967. I don't remember much of Sydney. Certainly bred in Brisbane. I feel like a Queenslander, despite having lived more of my life in Sydney, by now, and I always get all warm and gooshy whenever we cross the border north!
I-94: The Fun Things. How did that come about? It was essentially your school band?
BS: High school band. Coerced by my best mate at school, John Hartley, to get his parents to buy him a bass guitar for his birthday. And he got a grip on that fairly rapidly. And we used to practise Zeppelin and Sabbath and Deep Purple songs in his rumpus room, or at my place., I lived at The Gap, which is western suburbs of Brisbane. He lived at Tarragindi, which is south. So we'd get our mothers to dive us (laughs). We were 14 at the time. Get our mothers to drive us to each other's place and practice on a Sunday afternoon. And we did that for a couple of years, until I started reading in RAM (Rock Australia Magazine) about Radio Birdman.
It was just wondrous. There was a column that they used to have, kinda undiscovered bands, unsigned bands that they had in the back of RAM. And there'd be some silly group, and they had this picture of this band, "Radio Birdman", and this picture of the singerÉhe had white hair down to his arse, black makeup running down his face and elbow length lurex gloves and, like a snakeskin shirt! (Laughs)
It was just the greatest thing IÕd ever seen, especially from an Australian band. I loved that kind of trashy rock and roll sort of thing that Alice Cooper had. Take a look at Glen Buxton Š that was what a rock star needs to look like! But here were these guys in our own backyard. Deniz, playing a guitar I'd never seen before, at a time when unless you had a Les Paul or a Strat, you werenÕt a proper guitar player! And this guy's got this amazing looking guitar, he's got mirrored shades and leather pants! (Laughs) It just blew my mind.
I-94: It was confronting, wasn't it.
BS: It was. Highly confrontational. And then, the story listed the sort of stuff that they were influenced by. And it was a whole new world to me. They were namechecking songs they coveredÉ"Career of Evil by the Blue Oyster Cult". This was like, sacred information, to a 15-year-old. It was inconceivable what that was. And it really tapped into that fan mentality where you've discovered something new and wondrous and you have to investigate it immediately.
And around about the same time, of course, I was watching Countdown. Ian Meldrum comes on to do Humdrum: "I think itÕs about the end of the worldÉget a load of the hottest new thing in England at the moment. ItÕs not for the faint-hearted. They're called, would you believe, the SEX PISTOLS, and this is a song that's storming up the charts called 'Anarchy in the UK' " . And this taps into EVERYTHING that you've got going as a teenager!
And there they were, that great clip of them, with Paul Cook, the drummer, up the front, and the singer in the back, kinda hunched over like a cripple Š
I-94: Dangling all over the microphone!
BS: Yeah! With ripped clothes and like this, raucous bloody racket! And I said: 'Brother, thatÕs for me'.
I-94: And Brisbane, gig-wise, you were restricted to what you booked yourself?
BS: I think that plays up a lot about being a teenager in Brisbane in the '70s. Probably had an enormous effect on me and why I'm so obsessed with rock. It was just one enormous suburb. When people say about Brisbane being a big country town Š it was more so than ever at that time.
There wasn't much difference between Brisbane and Mackay (to the north), really. They were just big, sleepy old towns. Nothing happening. Oppression from (State Premier) Joh Bjelke-Petersen's coppers, hassling you every time you went into town. So this music thing I was discovering was an amazing world beyond that.
I-94: You didn't have any contact with the Saints? They would have blown town by then?
BS: Yeah, they had blown town. By the time I had discovered the Saints Š and again that was probably from watching Countdown Š they had already split. Which is a kinda bummer, 'cos you couldnÕt go see the band Š
I-94: They were a pretty well kept secret up there.
BS: They were a well kept secret. They weren't interested in any promotion at all Š that's not true. They probably were, but they were so abrasive that, through the regular chain of events a rock group might follow to get a show somehow, these avenues weren't open to them.
I-94: Let's face it. Playing a Communist Party fund-raiser at Trades Hall in Brisbane at the timeÉ
BS: I'm surprised I got no wind at all about the Saints. I was really into music. I used to listen to Triple Z in Brisbane a lot and go tot the Joint Efforts at the University there, big shows, and I was completely unaware of the Saints. They were pretty insular. That's fairly apparent. But even though they'd blown town, it was kinda cool to discover that there were these rock landmarks in your own crummy home town.
I heard from Mark Callaghan (Riptides guitarist) one day, where the squat was, Petrie Terrace (where the band used to live and play) and I have a photo of me standing in front of the fireplace as a 16 or 17-year-old with the "I'm Stranded" (slogan) over the fireplace. I have another great photo of my brother, who was nine-years-old at the time with an Iggy Pop circa "The Idiot" rock mullet (laughs) and a Ramones T-shirt on and skin tight jeans and sneakers Š this nine-year-old punk Š standing in front of the I'm Stranded fireplace!
I-94: What about some of the other Brisbane bands like the Leftovers?
BS: The Leftovers were always highly entertaining. They were a great band, the Leftovers. I only managed to see them a couple of times. The only time IÕve ever been arrested in my entire life was at a Leftovers show. I didnÕt get to see them that night, because IÕd been chucked in the paddy wagon at a place called the Hamilton Hall, in the suburb of Hamilton, a local community hall.
And there was a band called Razar, on at the time. They were band that very much moulded themselves on the English punk thing and were extremely anti-social. But they were just suburban kids from Mt Gravatt. They were really good.
It really amazed me. They looked like such punks, and behaved like such punks, but they always had enough money to have really great equipment. I remember being in awe Š they went down to Sydney to do a couple of shows, and when they came back they had shitloads of really expensive Marshall equipment. I remember thinking: 'Jeez, that Sydney tour must have done really well' (laughs).
But Razar were on first, and I had the obligatory leather jacket on, and it was too hot so I thought: 'IÕll just take it off and chuck it in my car'. IÕd just got my licence. I was 17-years-old, driving my mum's car. And a copper put me in a headlock for something bogus. He said I was swearing in public or something preposterous. I'd just walked from the venue, put my jacket in the car, went back in and he put me in a headlock and chucked me in the paddy wagon.
So I never got to see the Leftovers that night. It was shaping up to be a pretty good show. But I did get to see them a bunch of times. And lovely chaps too.
Glenn Smith, the bass player, turned me on to a lot of music. At the time, I was pretty naive. I went out to his place 'cos he was selling off his record collection, I didnÕt quite understand why. Like he was such a music fan, and here he was selling off his music collection. And quite obviously now, to me. If it was HIS record collection. And he was selling it for junk, but probably it was someone else's record collection he was selling for junk. But always a lovely chap. They were all lovely chaps.
And I feel very privileged for having seen them play, because they were the real shit. A great, great band with a musical depth Š even though they were rough as guts live Š doing Velvet Underground songs in Brisbane in '77. Velvet Underground songs probably weren't even figuring in the Sex Pistols' or Clash's record collection at the time. These guys were serious music fans.
I-94: How did the Fun Things EP come about?
BS: We just HAD to do a record. It was just part of the punk process. It was something you wanted to do. We felt were had a couple of decent songs. We were still all in school at the time. I borrowed 400 bucks from my parents in order to make the thing happen.
I-94: It's rough as guts but it still holds up. I know you're not all that fussed with the lyrics on a couple of songsÉ
BS: Yeah, You know what? I've just re-mastered the thing because itÕs going to be re-released.
TO PART TWO
LET'S GET BACK TO THE BAR!