Covering all the bases with Ash Naylor

Emma Jane Johnston evenMatthew, Ash and Wally are Even. Emma-Jane Johnson photo.

Ask any Australian fan of hooky powerpop who they rate and the answer will almost inevitably include Even, the Melbourne institution that’s been a fixture on the Oz scene since forming in 1994. Fronted by  singer-songwriter-guitarist, Ashley Naylor, with Matthew Cotter on drums and Wally Kempton (aka Wally Meanie) on bass and backing vocals, they have just released their eighth album, “Down The Shops”, and it's reviewed here.

“Down The Shops” is a beautifully presented, vinyl collection of covers Even has released down the years. Ever since working up a rocking version of Badfinger’s “No Matter What” in their early mid-‘90s days playing the pubs around Fitzroy and St Kilda,  Even have usually had a cover or two on the go. And they weren’t adverse to working up a load of them; they did "Even Jukebox" performances every year at Melbourne’s Cherry Bar.

Your Gray matter knows it makes sense

sensible gray cells

Long term denizens of this scurvy establishment will need no introduction to the names Captain Sensible (nee Ray Burns) and Paul Gray.  If there was such a thing as punk rock royalty (and I’m against it on general principle), these guys would at least be Grand Dukes or Princes or some such.   

For those of you who are slumming it, Captain Sensible is the more fluorescent face of The Damned.  His beret and toilet mat jumper has besmirched the covers of a good many picture covers of hit singles, including a surprise run as a solo star. 

Paul Gray came to the world’s attention with fellow graduates of the class of ’76 Eddie and the HotRods.  Paul has also had three runs as bass player in the Damned and the kind of resume that would have you blushing with jealousy. He played on Johnny Thunders’ “So Alone” so don’t you go comparing resumes.  He’s Paul Gray and you’re not. 

Ryders on the storm

Oranges The Long Ryders 2019 Tom Gold 2Making orange juice from oranges...Sid Griffin and The Long Ryders. Tom Gold photo.   

“There wasn’t anything called Americana when we started, but we helped create it, so I’m happy to be associated with it,” Long Ryders singer and guitarist Sid Griffin laughs, when I ask him if he has any empathy with the loosely-defined genre. “I like the Americana thing. I’m not one of those guys who says their band aren’t this or that.”

But while The Long Ryders were at the vanguard of the movement – as well, from a different musico-cultural perspective, the so-called Paisley Underground scene of the early 1980s, Griffin reckons Americana existed long before The Long Ryders formed in LA in 1980.

“People say that Sun Records was Americana, because of the marriage of rhythm and blues with country and western. But the other one that people miss is The Lovin’ Spoonful. They’re definitely Americana. Americana has always been here. No-one said Americana or alt.country until the end of The Long Ryders’ days.”

Blackie or Peter Black? Just make sure you call him when it's his turn to record

blackie pony 2I first saw Blackie when I was 16. It was the Hard-Ons’ 21st birthday tour, and I was stuck in Coolangatta, a long way from home. I knew nothing of the band but the name intrigued me so I went along. To this day it’s one of my top five gigs.

Hit after hit of pop punk brilliance, and for me the Hard-Ons are the gold standard in the genre. And here was guitarist Blackie, who combined metal style shredding with fast three chord punk rock playing. My tiny mind was blown.

Since then Peter Black has launched a solo career. 2020 marks the release of his sixth and seventh solo offerings. One electric, one acoustic. Aside from being one of the country’s best guitarists, Blackie’s solo work proves what a beautiful songwriter he is. The man can do no wrong

I-94 Bar: Now you’re playing a gig this Saturday with the Hard-Ons, and I saw a while back you did a gig in Sydney with Nunchukka Superfly, which was 20 people only. You obviously love playing live, but I take it with the lockdown period playing live now must be that extra bit more special?

Blackie: Man, I tell you how fucking weird this is. We did a couple of gigs recently, where I played solo and with the two bands, and I did a solo gig with John Kennedy’s 68 Comeback Special. But three weeks ago Nunchukka played a gig with a band from Canberra, and it didn’t really occur to me, as I had been driving for three-and-a-half-hours, it was all so trippy, like fucking hell, now I got to sing!

It hit me as it’s the first time I had been out of Sydney for 10-11 months. It was weird, but awesome. I’m like now I got to find the venue, find a park, and lug the gear. I loved every second of it

Williamson and Tek beat the odds but "Two To One" came down to the wire

FranklinAvery williams tekStudio work: Jqmes Williamson and Deniz Tek. Franklin Avery photo.

It’s a back to basics, guitar album but “Two To One”, the joint effort from James Williamson (Iggy & the Stooges) and Deniz Tek (Radio Birdman), had a complicated gestation that birthed a record in the nick of time. 

Commissioned by Los Angeles label Cleopatra Records a year out from its planned release, most of its 11 songs were worked up in face-to-face sessions in Hawaii, where Tek now lives and Williamson spends half his year at his vacation home. 

After Williamson went back to his home in San Francisco, the songs were refined via file sharing before Tek flew to the mainland in December last year for rehearsals and a recording session for the basic tracks at Studio D in Sausalito, California.

Sessions for vocal tracking and guitar overdubs followed on both sides of the Pacific. The record was mixed and about to be mastered when the first ripples of the COVID-19 pandemic became a global tidal wave.

The gift of Goose Lake and why you need to unwrap it

stooges promo 1969The original Stooges.

Ben Blackwell is one of the most important figures to come out of the Detroit music scene in the past 30 years. Whether it be his drumming with the Dirtbombs, his work crewing for and archiving The White Stripes or his running of Third Man Records, Ben is yet another in a long line of significant musical names to have come from the Motor City.

Third Man Records has just dropped the Stooges album “Live at Goose Lake”. Recorded back in August 1970, the show it documents is a seminal and infamous moment in the band’s history. It was the last gig the band played with bassist Dave Alexander.

Reeding between the lines

sunday reeds Bryan LynaghAdelaide band The Sunday Reeds' latest release, “Drive You Mad”, has been one of my favourite releases for 2020. A brilliant combination of Cramps-style ‘60s garage with elements of Riot Grrl, punk and shoegaze, it’s an amazing mix of genres spread over six tracks.

Core members, Romana Ashton and Drew Jones, have continued the band despite the two now living in different states. Singer-bass player Romana spoke to us via phone from her South Australian home base.

I-94 Bar: Before we kick off can I ask how have you been going in these odd times?

Romana: it’s been fine, the first few months I was ok, I prefer working from home and it suited me better. I’m alright on my own as I’m a fairly introverted person so I cope ok with that. But even now I’m a bit sick of the walls, seeing the same thing. I have a cat to keep me entertained and to kept me sane, taking up some time and entertaining myself. But I’m itching to see a few things now, kind of over it (laughs).

I-94 Bar: I’ve had a cat around my place for a year and it is a good feeling saying, 'Sod the world I’m gonna hang out with the cat tonight'?

Nobody's Victim: Taking aim with Dave Faulkner

dave faulkner in a hatOne of the most important people to come out of Perth's music scene since the 1970s is Dave Faulkner. Whether he’s playing punk, pop or electro music, he's always trying to create something new and exciting. The Hoodoo Gurus’ latest single “Hung Out To Dry” is a perfect example.

Faulkner picks a target in the current US President, someone who has been a punching bag for many people, and sticks it to him in a fresh and personal manner.

As well as the new Gurus single, Faulker's reconstituted former band The Victims had their first release in many moons this year. It was a physical EP featuring recordings of four songs (“Charlie”, “Horror Smash”, “I Wanna Be With You” and “Everynite”) that were written, but never recorded, when the legendary band formed in Perth in the 1970s.

The re-born Victims reunites Dave with original member James Baker and new recruit, the great Ray Ahn of the Hard Ons, who give a slightly modern touch to some classic tunes that were birthed at the dawn of punk rock. 

 Dave spoke to me via Zoom in Sydney where he tells me he is fresh from mastering the next Gurus single.

Mining unearthed Stooges gold is a labor of love for Ben Blackwell

iggy in repose

Nobody loves a band more than a diehard follower of the Stooges. Through thick and thin, they cling to whatever recording detritus or tidbit of lore is handed down, like a drowning man clutches a life preserver in an ocean liner sinking.

They chase every bootleg with the fervour of a pre-urban renewal Cass Corridor junkie hustling a hit. They celebrate the band’s posthumous legend status and annoy non-believers with trivia, simultaneously living vicariously through the stories of the Stooges' addled (pre-reunion) stumbles and falls.

All this and more is why the news that broke in June this year about a high-quality desk tape concert recording of the original line-up materialising, a full five decades after the event, hit the faithful like a phalanx of neighbourhood leaf blowers at 7am on a hungover, suburban Saturday morning.

I-94 Bar