Brad Shepherd at the I-94 Bar
I-94: Is Dave a prolific writer?
BS: UmmmÉhe goes in spurts as well. HeÕll be noodling around with something, and something will take his fancy. He gets really obsessive about it. If he stumbles across something that excites him, then he'll just work at it until itÕs finished.
I-94: Was there a conscious focus on direction when you joined the Gurus?
BS: Clyde and I both brought more of a rock and roll thing to it. I guess we were both well entrenched in that post-Radio Birdman thing. We just wanted to play a lot, and make a record. That's all we wanted to do. There was a pretty strong following (for us) around the inner-city. Dave's very anti-cool. He felt, even though they (the Gurus) were the darlings of the inner-city crowd: 'These people, God love 'em, even though theyÕre completely into the band, they're going to drop us in six months. That's what they always do. So what we need to do is go out and do suburban shows and win a proper audience who are into us because they like us and not because they think itÕs this secret thin'Õ.
So that was it. We just wanted to play and make a record. And that was pretty hard. In the prevailing conditions of local music in '82. What the Gurus were doing was widely considered to be absolutely laughable. What was big then? I canÕt remember. There was a lot of the New Romantic thing.
I-94: That was cutting in and you had your Wa Wa Nee. Ultravox.
BS: Wa Wa Nee - they were later. Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet and things that were ifluenced by them: (Australian bands) Pseudo Echo and Real Life. I do remember the Guru'Õ first proper tour was to promote the "Tojo" single. We did a six-week tour driving around in a bongo van, across the Nullabor Plain, sleeping on our gear (laughs). If anybody ever hassles me and says I had it easy, IÕm always happy to bring that up: Driving from Adelaide to Kalgoorlie, sleeping on speaker boxes and drum hardware (Laughs). Not comfortable. 32 hours it took us. I feel I earned by tenderfoot at that point in time.
I-94: Have you come across the tall poppy with the Monarchs?
BS: WeÕre not anywhere near there yet (laughs).
I-94: Maybe itÕs not the right way to phrase it, but people claiming youÕre getting gigs because of who you know, because of your name.
BS: I think it would have been very easy for me to trade on it, and I've actively avoided that. I want the Monarchs to be like any other rock group, to earn peoples' respect. Not to get a deal with Mushroom and be Brad Shepherd and His Monarchs.
I-94: You could have been the Brad Shepherd Band.
BS: Like any band worth its salt, it's got to stand on its own two feet. It canÕt just trade off goodwill I've built up in the music industry.
I-94: Back to "Stoneage Romeos" and touring days.
BS: We ending up singing with a small independent label called Big Time Records because none of the majors were remotely interested. Their A & R guys would come along and laugh and point, and then leave. To this day, if I hear Real Life's "Send Me an Angel" it puts me right back in that bongo van on the Nullabor Plain, pulling into Norseman at 4am. Because ("Send Me an Angel") was the number-one record at the time, and it was the complete antithesis of what we considered good music, and it was just everywhere. Driving through Ceduna. Bloody "Send Me an Angel". It was huge!
I-94: Moving Pictures were big at that time.
BS: Yeah, I guess so. "What About Me". They were more pub rock. Very Bruce Springsteen. Maybe trying to tap into that Cold Chisel mentality.
I-94: Coming up with the songs for that first album. Was it hard? They were so varied.
BS: They were pretty much in place. We played them a lot, but a lot of those songs were already in place, with the exception of "I Want You Back". WeÕd finished the album. And we went back in and recorded it Š it was a new song that he'd been working on. It was a real breakthrough for him, because it was different from the kinda gimmicky, cartoonish aspect of things like "Echo Chamber", "I Was a Kamikaze Pilot" and "Leilani". More in the realm of what people may regard as classic Hoodoo Gurus. Classic, guitar-based pop songs.
I-94: Were you surprised the album did as well as it did?
BS: I guess we were pretty surprised. We got a deal in America without too much trouble. I remember being shocked by THAT. Stuart Coupe (a prominent rock journalist) was our manager at the time and he went to America and managed to secure a deal with A & M records in about two weeks flat! Yeah, quite surprised. And all of a sudden we were up and away and on our plane to California.
(The Big Time signing in the bar of the Strawberry Hills Hotel in Sydney is pictured right.)
I-94: You hadnÕt been to the States before. Had Dave?
BS: IÕd never been to the States. Dave had.
I-94: HeÕd knocked around New York.
BS: ThatÕs right, and in many respects gathered the raw material on that trip to America to form the Hoodoo Gurus. Because heÕd seen the Cramps, playing at Max's in '79. Been turned on to this band, before he'd seen a record by them. The Heartbreakers. Really, a kind of return to good time rock and roll, both those bands. They were drawing on '50s and '60s. The Heartbreakers (were) very much an amped-up Chuck Berry.
I-94: Look at the stuff they used to cover: Archie and the Drells.
BS: Exactly. At a time, like '79, when people in Brisbane were getting into Joy Division, Gang of Four stuff, Dave was in New York watching the Heartbreakers!
I-94: Then came the touring treadmill. You were doing good business here, and were pretty well regarded on college radio in the States.
BS: Hmmm. What is now regarded as the alternative scene. There wasn't a word for it then, It was just the college music scene. It was in the realm of what Triple Z was for me in the 70s or what FBI is. No playlist, whatever the guy who was manning the board at the station wanted to hear. 2JJ or 5MMM in Adelaide, the university station.
I-94: It was a bit hard for people in Australia to grasp exactly where you fitted in over there. Are we talking third tier?
BS: Yeah, REM and U2 were at the top of pile, and we were kinda next with the Replacements.
I-94: Did you see the Replacements as rivals?
BS: I certainly did. I never got to actually see them. I must admit I was fairly dismissive of them at that time. They were coming from a completely different angle to us. And I always thought of them being kinda commercial, although to look at them these days it was mainly just because their song structure was different to ours.
I-94: Your cut of "Alex Chilton" on the Antfarm Records Replacements tribute sounds great.
BS: Yeah, I was pretty happy with that.
I-94: How did your tenure in the Beasts of Bourbon come about?
BS: TheyÕd already made their album ("The AxemanÕs Jazz"). Kim (Salmon) and Boris (Sujdovic) Š it was just a goof for them Š theyÕd split to England to pursue their principal love, The Scientists, and I guess Greg Perkins just wanted to play some shows for this album that had just come out.
I-94: So it was a case of whoÕs around, who do we know.
BS: Exactly. So they roped me in but that was right at the time (drummer) James (Baker) was asked to quietly leave the Hoodoo Gurus. They didnÕt take too kindly to that so they reciprocated by quietly asking me to leave the Beasts of Bourbon. I actually think I only did two shows with them.
I-94: Is that all?
BS: Yeah, two shows. One of them, I remember, was at the Paddington Green Hotel, and IÕll be buggered if I can remember where the other show was.
I-94: Where did the Gurus peak? YouÕve had time to look back. Was there a time most personally satisfying for you?
BS: Personally satisfying? The last couple of albums. Definitely the second half (of the bandÕs career) was more satisfying to me.
I-94: Because you were contributing more?
BS: Yeah. And I thought, sonically, the records were much better. I thought the songs were getting better. Not only mine, but Dave's as well. And weÕd actually learned enough about the recording process to know what we didn't like. And that third album ("Blow Your Cool") that we started to make at the new Albert's at Neutral Bay, was sonically a disaster for us. We hated the sound.
So when we made our next album "Magnum Cum Louder", we went back to basics and back to Trafalgar Studios, where we did our first album, produced the thing ourselves and were much, much happier with it. I thought "Crank" was a real high water mark. The only time where it was recorded internationally, massive budget Š
I-94: With Ed Stasium?
BS: Ed Stasium produced it. It was recorded in Los Angeles. Beautiful studio. Ed was a dream to work with. Absolutely fantastic. The first day you meet him, heÕs kind of commanding and aloof, somewhat. After the third day he was lighting his farts (laughs). He was just one of us, being an idiot, cracking jokes, having fun. Tremendous. Just a real pleasure.
We were very, very scared of working with producers after a bad run at one stage. ThatÕs why "Magnum Cum Louder" and "Kinky" were produced by the band. We actually wanted Ed to produce our third album, but couldnÕt get him because the success that heÕd had was with stuff not considered to be mainstream. Like the Ramones. Ed had come from an engineering background. The record company actually rejected our request to have him as a producer.
In the next couple of years he went on to do Living Colour, not only a popular record but an amazing sounding record. So next time we asked if we could have Ed Stasium, they said yes. Different record company.
He mixed "Kinky" for us. It was recorded at Trafalgar. Dave and I took the tapes to LA and Ed mixed them. We were like: ŌOh God, finally someone that understands rock and roll!Õ So we were happy to do the next album Š we pulled out all stops to make sure the next album was with him and in his environment. American Recorders was an old abandoned gas station. High ceilings and the sound of the room in there contributed a lot.
It was the first time IÕd seen guys record the way I always record now: Eliminate the desk completely, except for monitoring, so the mikeÕs going through a bunch of Neve pre-amps or API stuff, old modules with gigantic bakelite knobs on them, and direct from there to tape, which is the way all good engineers I know now record. And we mixed on an amazing SSL desk at A & M, the classic studios where Joni Mitchell recorded all her stuff there and so on. So we couldnÕt really go wrong. That sort of set the standard for me.
I-94: Will you produce your own stuff with the Monarchs?
BS: Yeah. IÕd like to. Ther'Õs a lot of creativity. I'm really surprised how good Andy and Greg are at arranging. The'Õre very good at arranging my songs. Maybe IÕm too close to my own songs. Sometimes 'Õll turn up to rehearsal and theyÕll say: 'Have you thought about doing this?' about something that's been bothering me. And I donÕt have to pay them a producer's fee!
So long as you have a good engineer and a really strong concept of what you want to do musically, there's no need to have a producer. So long as there's somebody in the control room who can tell you when have to do something because you were flat our didn't have the same piece of fire as the last take, that's all you need. Someone who can step outside your environment and tell you. For me, anyway, I get too close to what I'm doing.
I-94: Did US record companies get the Gurus and understand you?
BS: Sometimes they did. Sometimes we had pretty good success with it. But it was always the people that got it versus the people that didn't. Perfect case in point was "Crank" where we had great success in Texas, so much so that they asked us back at the end of the tour because it was doing so well. The next album came out and all the staff in the record company had changed. And these people didn't get the band at all. And so nothing happened in Texas.
We came across that time and time again, where the progress the band was making was only in small increments and it was wholly and solely on the enthusiasm of people in the record company because the company wasn't throwing in enormous budgets into promotion. So it was really reliant on us touring our arses off, whatever enthusiasm we could scare up in the staff and then theyÕd just wait and see what would happen. It was never enough to make us go through the roof.
I-94: Would you go with a major again or a smaller company? It can be irrelevant when smaller ones get bought out by the bigger ones anyway.
BS: (Laughs) I'd be comfortable going with a major as long as the people that were in place at the time understood you. Even with a small company, the same thing can happen. As long as I felt confident the mainstays of the company were going to be there on a long-term basis and understood what the band was about. I wouldn't necessarily go with a big company. What you want is artistic control over your product, a decent budget to realise that, great distribution and a promotional budget.
I-94: So how are the prospects for the Monarchs?
BS: WeÕve got the single, "2001", coming out. We haven't actually approached too many people yet. I've played it to a couple of friends in record companies for some vague interest.
I-94: When is the single coming out?
BS: Hopefully, July. On red vinyl, no less. WeÕve finally got the final figures from the pressing plant. Coloured vinyl's within our budget. It's so bloody difficult putting out a single these days. Nobody's set up to manufacture it. The cover, for instance, who do you go to manufacture that? We were pretty damn keen to do a traditional single sleeve Š not just the plastic sleeve with a folded insert Š a proper bloody cover. It's very difficult to find anyone who can manufacture that. We think we've found somebody.
I-94: Was there a point where the Gurus might have broken up earlier?
BS: We kept making records because we felt we had something creative to offer. We almost broke up after "Crank". And then we decided there were a couple of things we hadn't realised. And we nailed that on the last album ("Blue Cave"). We just felt like we'd done everything we could do without starting to repeat ourselves ad nauseam, without starting to get into techno. For your guitar-based pop band, we'd pretty much covered the whole spectrum Š hard rock, psychedelic, ballads. We'd nailed a lot of the genres that we had any respect for, pretty well, we thought, so it was time to give it away.
I-94: I have to ask the inevitable reunion questionÉ
BS: No plans. I donÕt think it will ever happen.
I-94: Has anyone approached the band?
On reunion tour offers: "I don't think it would ever really be the same, It was just a great point in time"
BS: Yeah, yeah. Quite a
few times, for not insubstantial amounts of cash, I add hastily. I don't think
it would ever really be the same, It was just a great point in time.
I-94: Do all the records still do good business? TheyÕre all in print, arenÕt they?
BS: Mushroom had them and theyÕre actually coming out through Shock very shortly, so if they're not in print they soon will be.
I-94: Are they re-mastering?
BS: No, I think it's a simple re-issue. They still tick away quite nicely. I haven't seen Dave down the employment office! (Laughs). I donÕt think he needs to register for Work for the Dole, quite yet!
I-94: Tell me about touring Brazil.
BS: It was a bit like being on Venus. Japan was like that too.
I-94: How many times did you do Japan?
BS: Only once. About 10 years ago. April of 1990. But youÕre constantly aware that youÕre not in your world any more and itÕs just not the Western World that you feel comfortable in, like the US or Western Europe. Liberating, in some respects. But pretty strange. Sort of a bizarre reality when youÕre not relating on a cultural level to this environment at all, yet here you have an audience thatÕs intimately aware of what you do. Quite a strange paradox.
I-94: I've seen home video footage of the Ramones in South America where they were trapped indoors like the Beatles. Did you every experience that?
BS: Good on'Ōem! The Ramones! ThatÕs fantastic that the world has taken a right-hand turn and there was hysteria for the Ramones. That's great.
I-94: You guys never experienced that where you couldnÕt leave the hotel without being trampled?
BS: Um, no. Not really. I did get chased down Pitt Street (Sydney) once, in a scene reminiscent of the Partridge Family! (laughs) By half a dozen girls Š this is before Pitt Street was a mall Š I had to dash across moving traffic and do a sly sidestep into the Strand Arcade and into George St to lose 'em. They were chasing me like fuckin' David Cassidy! Pretty funny. That was around the time of "Mars Needs Guitars". Thing settled down.
I-94: Cindy Brady?
BS: I was in a restaurant called Lula, in Santa Monica, a beachside town outside LA, and I was in there with a mate of mine, and he knew the girl who was our waitress. And she said: 'You know who came in here the other day? Cindy Brady'. And I was completely in awe. 'Oh my god, that's fantastic'. I should mention that this was actually at the time we were recording "Crank", and I was hanging out with the guys from Redd Kross a lot, and I was hyper aware of pop culture, as those guys are. "Cindy Brady! ThatÕs fantastic!" So I guess I must have carried on too much because I made an impression on the waitress.
And a couple of days later I was in the studio recording, about to start my guitar part. The first thing we were going to do. And I amble in and drink some coffee. The phone rings. The assistant says: 'Brad, Cindy Brady on the phone for you'. So it was odd having a conversation with someone youÕve never met before. She's like: 'Come down, we're having some drinks at Luna', this restaurant, and she lived close by.
Went down there and, sure enough, there she was. I just gushed like a big fan. I was like: 'You get this all the time. I just loved the Brad Bunch. Blah, blah, blah'. She was SO un-Cindy Brady. She was slamming down frozen margueritas, chain-smoking Malboros and swearing like a soldier! She was more Courtney Love than Cindy Brady. Very funny. I still have her phone number. I donÕt believe she's at that house any more I recently saw her on TV on one of those Brady Bunch specials. She's married, very happy which is good Š because she didnÕt seem really happy at all.
She was kinda coming on to me. It was just too weird, you know! And, Stephen McDonald from Redd Kross was very dirty on me that IÕd blown this opportunity to have a little tete a tete with Cindy Brady. He'd go (in accent): 'Ohhhh, Brad. YouÕre craaaazy. You know itÕs your patriotic dooooty!' (Laughs)
I-94: The Gurus were right into that sort of cultural aesthetic, right into it. Who were some of those names that you guys got to meet?
BS: Don Adams from "Get Smart", which was pretty good! At the time, we were touring in Canada. A lot of US production is done in Canada, because the dollarÕs cheap and thereÕs less restrictions on them union-wide. So he was doing a sitcom based in a supermarket. The sitcomÕs called "Check It Out".
I-94: Sounds like a stinker!
BS: It was diabolical! I didn't get to meet too many of them. We did have Frank Thring (high camp Australian actor) sign an 8 x 10 picture for us, which was pretty neat: "The Hoodoo Gurus: YouÕre k-i-i-i-n-k-y".
We always had great ideas for things like that that never came to fruition: Getting Joyce Mayne (a down-market retail queen) to do ads for us. The Monarchs still do it too. You're driving around up country in the Tarago van and you come up with ingenious ideas to promote your next record, you know. Get the guy that does the speedway ads: "Get your backside trackside and get down and see the Monarchs"! That sort of thing. The Gurus were always pretty good at hare-brained schemes.
I-94: So when would you envisage having an album out?
BS: I do feel that the bandÕs really reached its stride at this point and weÕre ready to make an album. I think we've worked hard enough at playing and have been a group long enough to the point where weÕre starting to develop some chemistry and something unique and unusual.
So I'm pretty keen to get into a studio and make an album at this point. Got some young new management on board, the blokes at Winterman Goldstein, that handle the Ivy League bands, Hoolihan and Youth Group and SAAB 78, so they're going to go around snooping for a deal in earnest. But weÕre gung ho.
I-94: Lastly, as weÕre in a Bar, what do you drink?
BS: Of course it's frothy, fruity things with an umbrella and a tiny little plastic mermaid on the rim of the glass, just like anyone else.
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