About 15 years ago, a burn of a CD turned up unsolicited in my mailbox, courtesy of the inimitable Dave Laing, then working at Shock Records. The band was Endless Boogie (named after the John Lee Hooker album) and the album was “Focus Level”.
It was eight songs, about 80 minutes, a heavy psychedelic smorgasbord of riffage, punctuate with Paul Major’s growling vocals. If ever there was a band that could take you to another dimension, it was Endless Boogie.
Having had to abort their most recent planned Australian tour in 2020 due to the plague, Endless Boogie is preparing to hit Australian shores again with Howlin Rain. I spoke to Paul Major from his home town of New York City.
As Comets on Fire burnt out – inevitably perhaps, given the band’s incendiary exploration of psychedelic expression – guitarist Ethan Miller looked to the warm and free spirited grooves of ‘70s rock when forming his new band, Howlin Rain.
For lyrical inspiration, Miller cast his eye over the complex cultural melting pot that is the United States. Howlin Rain’s fifth album, “The Alligator Bride”, was released mid-way through the Trump era; the band’s latest album, “Dharma Wheel”, was conceived just as Trump’s tumultuous presidency ran head long into the descending clouds of global pandemic.
A prolific touring act, Howlin Rain had been scheduled to tour Australia in April 2020, only to find itself marooned at home as international borders banged closed. Now heading back to Australia for the first time since Comets on Fire toured here 15 years ago, and with “Dharma Wheel” finally released after 18 months’ abeyance, Ethan Miller talks about Howlin Rains’ symbiotic relationship with America, American culture and Americana.
Our common friend and fellow traveller, the outrageously talented Tom Sanford of Winter Kills and Beachwood Sparks, introduced me to Evad Fromme in some secret rebel rocker social media group online about a decade ago.
We became fast friends and kindred brethren.
Evad is one of the best frontmen and underground rock ‘n’ roll performers and songwriters in the Divided States Of Fear And Slavery we've seen since probably the long gone heyday of Raji's and English Acid, when bands like Celebrity Skin and Stars From Mars and Raw Flower and the purple-haired Zeros ruled the dive bars.
Of course ever since the mid-‘90s, the Wall Street land barons have been tearing down all of rock ‘n’ roll's most venerated landmarks, from CBGB to Tower on Sunset, to build always more unattainable, prohibitively expensive condos and hotels for lawless hedge fund managers and big pharma and private prison shareholding rich people. In the war crazed USA! USA! mockingbird Big 5 corporate mainstream, the entire media has been disgracefully hijacked and weaponized to promote forever war and a fascist police state for the past 25 years. So no high quality rock’n’ roll gets heard on our public airwaves. They can't ever really kill it, but it's all back underground, now.
I've known this soulful, creative, talented brother Reverend Paul S Cunningham of Boston’s Gunhouse Hillfor a long time now, through the miracle of modern telecommunications on the surveillance panopticon. In recent days I've been locked outta social media for too much facts-based push-back against billionaire techlords’ preferred narratives. Reverend Paul is one of the only people I miss being able to look in on.
Eddie Spaghetti (left) of The Supersuckers thinks it's all a bit loud but Frank Meyer begs to differ. Ed Culver photo.
Los Angeles musician, author and filmmaker Frank Meyer is a surprisingly talented singer songwriter and a highly skilled, captivating raconteur. He seems like a genuinely all around good guy, so I'm a little embarrassed I did not get that hip to his extensive discography much sooner.
I first became aware of both Frank Meyer and fellow feature article subject John 5 way back in the hazy distant past-maybe like, 23 years ago, in the pages of a glossy punk ‘n’ roll bible, “Pop Smear”, with both my boyhood idols, Evil Knievel and David Lee Roth on the cover. I was workin' at a news stand in the Midwest where long lines of unhappy barflies flooded in front of my cash register all day, incessantly wanting to buy the scratch off lotto tickets. "I'll take ten Lucky Pots Of Gold and five Leprechaun's Rainbows".
Frank seemed to have won the rock ‘n’ roll lotto when he got to hang out with John 5 and David Lee Roth, live, and in-person, on multiple occasions, and then, went on to write books and form his own bands that criss-crossed the country. He was playing bills with all the other bands I liked at the time and releasing a long and prolific stream of records I never really heard.
Adelaide-based writer, editor, and sometime-musician Robert Brokenmouth took the time, during lockdown — well, lockdown for us non-South Australians, at least — to reflect on his literary and musical trajectory. It’s a curious bundle of projects and interests that Brokenmouth juggles — the war buff and the punk music-buff occupy the same territory (no military pun intended) without apparent contradiction.
Brokenmouth’s published achievements include his chronicling of Melbourne’s punk scene in the 1996 book “Nick Cave: The Birthday Party and Other Epic Adventures” as well as editing ‘fictionalised’ military histories such as Australian WWII navigator Ray Ollis’s 101 Nights and air gunner John Bede Cusack’s “They Hosed Them Out”.
For Brokenmouth, war and punk have one thing in common, perhaps: both are opportunities for adventure, in very different shapes and forms, but adventure nevertheless.
With COVID-19 limiting opportunities to meet for an interview, Robert kindly responded to my questions via email — and though you might not getting him talking so prolifically in real life, it’s clear that when he puts pen to paper, or finger-pads to keyboard, he’s got a lot to say, and a rollicking history all his own.
I’ve pulled out some choice tidbits from Robert’s life and career to give you a sense of the Boys’ Own, Boys Next Door fan.
Consider yourself lucky if you still have access to Vive Le Rock magazine from Merry Olde. They still write about real rock ‘n’ roll! That mag might write about the Cult, the Damned, Psychedelic Furs, or the Jesus & Mary Chain. They still put The Clash right there on the cover! Ya know?
I’m still livin’ in the’80s. I was mostly into like, Prince, Duran Duran, David Bowie, and Adam Ant, but I hung around with like the stoner heavy metal dudes who liked Ozzy and Dio and shit. Think “Beavis N Butthead”. That shit was real.
I miss newsstands and comic book and record stores, print media. I still don’t carry an iPhone. Where I live. Amazon killed all the book stores and the free press is dead in my country. Daniel Hale, Craig Murray, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, John Kiriakou, Col. Ann Wright, Ray McGovern...all the real whistleblowers are slandered, hounded, tortured or kidnapped. Seymour Hersh is blacklisted. Max Blumenthal gets harassed. Amy Goodman sadly works for billionaires now and helps sell pro war narratives. Abby Martin, Ben Norton, Jeremy Scahill, John Pilger, and Glenn Greenwald get ignored. Color me depressed.
Promo shot of The Atlantics 2012. Ashfield Leagues Club, before the last show played by the full lineup. Jim Skiathitis (guitar), Martin Cilia (guitar), Peter Hood (drums) and Bosco Bosanac (bass). Mandy Hall photo
The passing of The Atlantics drummer Peter Hood in September closed the door on one of Australia’s most important surf bands. The Atlantics formed in Sydney in 1961, the group spawned the worldwide hit “Bombora” in 1963.
The follow-up “War of the Worlds” was an innovative 45 that arguably pioneered space rock before there was such a thing. It was unsuccessful and the band re-invented itself after the surf music genre declined in popularity.
Taking on singer Johnny Rebb, they pursued success playing tough R&B (among other styles) and their Peter Hood-penned “C’mon” is widely regarded as an Australian ‘classic, later adopted by the Wet Taxis.
It should be no surprise that Ron S Peno and The Superstitions have delivered their most fully realised album yet in “Do The Understanding”.
With 12 years and three previous long players behind them, they’re a crack outfit of experienced Melbourne players, fronted by a vocalist who made an indelible mark with Died Pretty.
Everyone has a COVID-19 story, and musicians are doing it harder than most.
But Ron Peno’s own experience was preceded by a diagnosis of esophageal cancer, followed by chemo and radiotherapy, and then remission. A much-delayed Died Pretty national tour in April this year was sandwiched between lockdowns.
“Do The Understanding” has a prolonged and disrupted gestation stretching back to its formative writing in 2018, but it’s a contender for best Australian album of the year.
It’s a record full of drama and delicacy; a superb collection of songs underpinned by soulful playing and (arguably) the best vocals of Ron Peno’s career.
“I really pleased with it. It's taken a while to surface but we're really pleased with the seven songs,” a dapper Peno says over a Saturday afternoon Zoom connection.
“I think it's seven wonderful songs. Nice, strong, rather than putting too many tunes on there.
“It's just an hour. It's seven songs. Nobody says you have to have 10 songs. It's a little journey…start here, you finish there, drift off into the distance, you know, and if it's too short…play it again. Take the take the journey again.