Posted June 27, 2005
"ALTERNATIVE ANIMALS" MAKER
We've been spoilt in recent years. Compilations like "Born Out of Time", "Do the Pop" and "Tales of the Australian Underground" have all gone a long way towards preserving and propogating the legacy of Australian punk and its many variants.
A slew of so-called heritage releases have done justice to the individual output of The Saints, Radio Birdman, the Sunnyboys, the Lime Spiders and the Screaming Tribesmen.
One of the most anticipated and significant releases to do with the formative years of Australian punk is a hybrid CD-ROM and CD package called "Alternative Animals". The CD-ROM component is crammed with interactivity and interview snippets, family trees and live clips featuring a range of band members, promoters and fans from the period 1976-79 - people like Ed Kuepper, Deniz Tek, James Baker, Ron Peno, Rob Younger, Julie Mostyn and Mick Harvey. The accompanying music CD adds uncommon and downright rare tracks from Radio Birdman, The Saints, Babeez, Boys Next Door, the Lipstick Killers, the Chosen Few and more. In short, it's both fun and a jaw-dropper. It's also just about essential for anyone who's surfing the I-94 Bar for the same reasons we keep it open.
"Alternative Animals" producer Scott Anderson (pictured right) is a talented guy, singing and playing guitar for infrequently-sighted Melbourne band The Naked Eye, whose debut album "From Obscrutity to Nowhere" on Corduroy a couple of years back was a superb piece of melodic rock and roll. It would have been all over your radio, in a fairer world. "Alternative Animals" seems set to make more of a lasting impact, filling the void left by a handful of books on Australian punk that kept the focus too narrow or hammered home personal viewpoints at the expense of balance. An Australian edition of "Please Kill Me" is yet to be written (and when we do, we'll try and make it accurate, if not as scandalous). In the meantime, "Alternative Animals" will keep the flames burning. THE BARMAN asked Scott Anderson to linger awhile in the Bar and tell us from wherfe the sparks came...
Q Congratulations on the whole "Alternative Animals" package, Scott. I guesstimated it took about five years, all up, to produce. Am I on the money? Were there times when you thought it wouldn't get finished?
Yeah it did take 5 years to come out, but you could condense it down to 2 years of actual work. The cd-rom was completed about 18 months ago. A lot of the time was spent on admin/contractual/legal type stuff. There were many times when I thought it wouldn't be finished, or at least not to a point where it could be released.
Q We spoke while you were chasing down some of the principals a few years back. Was there anyone who declined to be involved or anyone else you dearly would have loved to have included but just couldn't because of the tyranny of distance or some other factor?
All up, I think I interviewed 35 or so people and only 2 declined and 2 wouldn't sign the release form after being interviewed. It would have been good to interview Nick Cave, but he's based in London which made it pretty much impossible. For some reason my charm didn't work on Brad Shepherd and Dave Faulkner, who were the 2 who declined. Both of those guys would have been great
for the Perth and Brisbane stuff, as they were pretty important players in the respective punk scenes. I think the timing wasn't right for those guys. Maybe another time.
Q How did you go about limiting yourself to the period 1976-78? Was it tempting to widen the net?
I wanted to cover what I saw as the initial punk scene in Australia. After that time it really splinters off into many styles and influences and becomes pretty difficult to define. Also that initial explosion houses some great talents that went to bigger and better things, which sort of reinforces the idea that the period ALternative Animals covers is truly a genesis point for Australian music.
Q How did the funding come together to make it a reality?
I'd put together a cd-rom covering the Melbourne scene as final project for
a multimedia course I was studying at Chisolm TAFE. Luckily most of the punk people from the '70's were in Melbourne, which made it easier to carry out interviews etc. I think one of the staff suggested to me that I could get some funding for it. I approached the Australian Film Commission and got lucky.
Q Everyone seems to have their own definition of "punk". I know it's a label that had to be applied to this package for it to go onto the CD shelves (and I'm buggered if I know what else you call it) but I was interested to know what your definition was.
I wasn't interested in what a punk sound is or was, or what it was supposed to be. Most of the people at the time didn't know what punk was either. There were some bands from the UK and New York who inspired creative young people to make their own music. Generally speaking the new bands had stripped the music back and it was pretty raw, which really opened the flood gates for people who wanted to do something musically, but just needed some impetus to get going. They inspired the whole "do it yourself" attitude.
In regard to "Alternative Animals", I wanted to say to people that there were a variety of bands that made up the punk scene. Whether it fits into what people consider to be punk wasn't an issue. The definition of punk seems to be a retrospective one anyway.
Q Anything involving filmed interviews invariably leaves a massive amount of material on the cutting room floor. How much did you actually leave out? The concept seems to have lent itself to a DVD so were there thoughts of swapping medium halfway through?
Heaps got left out. When I started this, DVD wasn't that much of a force and didn't have the interactivity I wanted. CD-ROM is about compressing stuff down and getting it to fit , so your limited to how much video you can use. But it has the interactivity I wanted. There was a point when I looked at DVD, but it would have been a DVDROM which was new a couple of years ago and not many
people had DVDROM drives. Of course once you've budgeted for something, its pretty difficult to change half way. I'd like to make a narrative "Alternative Animals" on DVD eventually.
Q Since you only covered '76-78 is there a chance of a volume 2 to continue the story? Were there any other notable omissions from "Alternative Animals"?
I interviewed guys from the Apartments and The Riptides but they didn't sign their release forms so couldn't use use the material. So that pretty much killed their inclusion. Brad Shepherd declined to be interviewed so I couldn't pool enough stuff to include them. I considered the Go Betweens but something put me off them. So Brisbane could of and should have been better. Outside of them
I think I covered what I set out to. As far as a volume 2 goes, I doubt it, just because its too big a task to cover so many bands that turn up in the '80's.
Q There's never been anything like "Alternative Animals" so I have to phrase this question carefully as comparisons are spurious. Some books we' ve seen on Australian underground music have naturally leant towards either Sydney or Melbourne as the supposed epicentre of punk in the late '70s. Do you have a view on this?
Both these cities probably had more bands just because they've got bigger populations. I suppose they developed stronger scenes cos the main bands stuck around. I always thought that Brisbane and Perth were as important as Melbourne and Sydney, because Brisbane had the Saints, Leftovers, Riptides and Fun Things, while Perth had the Scientists, Victims and the Manikins. The bands in Perth
and Brisbane couldn't sustain themselves however and either left the city, the country, or broke up.
Q The differences between Melbourne (arty) and Sydney (Detroit laced with Brit punk) back then seem obvious, with Adelaide still to coalesce and both Perth and Brisbane doing their own things in isolation. Is that an over-simplification and if so, how would you characterise each city's scene?
It might be an over simplification, but I was just trying to point out that in Australia each city had its own style. Of course there are going to be exceptions, but I think generally speaking Sydney was Detroity, Melbourne arty, Perth poppy and so on.
Q On the subject of past attempts to chronicle the rise of "Oz Punk" (for want of a better term), I read some interesting comments you made about Clinton Walker's book "Stranded". Do you want to talk about that?
Whatever I said about his book still stands.Essentially if he wasn't there it didn't happen. His book was self indulgent which is fine, but he entitled the book "Stranded -the Secret History of Independent Music 1977-91" It was more about him and who he hung and with and stuff. That's my recollection of the book. It's been ages since I read it.
Q Have you seen Andrew Stafford's book on Brisbane music, "Pig City"?
No I haven't heard of it.
Q I enjoyed the grabs from James Baker and I think they showed the influence he had on the Perth scene. Is that a fair assessment and how entertaining was his full interview?
James was a great guy to talk to. Although he was a little reluctant at first but loosened up as the interview got going. Everyone I spoke to in Perth stated categorically that James was the driving force behind the whole Perth scene and certainly was a big influence on Kim Salmon, Dave Faulkner and Rod Radalj.
Q Ed Wreckage (Leftovers) struck me as one tough hombre, even today, and Ronnie Peno is a helluva interesting interview subject. So here's a tough one. Which was your favourite interview?
That is tough. I guess the people with the clearest memories were the best. I didnt have to ask as many questions. Rob Younger was great....especially his Billy Thorpe remarks. Ross Buncle had an incredible memory and could really paint a picture of the early Perth shows. Of course John Reid was hilarious! I don't think I asked him a question. I didn't need to.
Q Here's another toughie.is it possible to label any one band the most influential as far as its impact on Australian music goes, or is that just pissing into the wind?
Probably the Saints or Birdman. They were the first if you like, both made great records that were as good or better than any band from overseas made at the same time. Birdman are back playing and continue to influence because of that reason. Also their records have been rereleased a few times over the years. Both bands have a different approach but I think are equally as important. I cant see any point in saying one is better than the other, cos you start getting into a Ford Holden mentality if you do.
Q There are two notable pieces of live footage you've used, namely Filth and the Boys Next Door, that are incredibly rare. Can you tell us a little about the story behind both of those clips?
The Filth stuff came about when I interviewed Peter Tillman. He said he had some 8mm footage in the Lipstick Killers/Psychosurgeons vault. I convinced Peter to loan me the footage and we put it onto mini dv. He had an archive copy and I had something to work with. It's a pity there was no sound, but it edited up pretty well with Ash Wednesday's recollection of their performance over the top. I
reckon they would have been pretty mental live!
The Boys Next Door stuff came from Linda Baron, who was studying at the time and thought it would be cool to shoot some of the bands. A wise decision. I'm sure the rig she would've had to lug around would have been huge comparatively. I can't remember how I got in touch with Linda now but she was very happy about me using her stuff. I think the Boys Next Door sounded great at that point. Their style changed pretty rapidly over a short period. Luckily for the project Mick Harvey and Nick Cave allowed me to use that stuff.
Q I'm always amazed by the proliferation of, shall we call them "private" recordings, of bands of this era that are out there in peoples' collections. Is that the case with Super 8 footage as well?
I'm sure there's heaps around. Video had just come out then. So it must have been pretty inspirational. As far as super 8 goes I think that was the only stuff on offer.
Q A mate's brother once had Super 8 footage (since lost) of Rob Younger beating the shit out of someone outside French's in Sydney, he reckons. Were there live clips that you tried to use but were thwarted by prohibitive cost or licensing issues? (I'm thinking some of the ABC-TV footage of the Saints, Radio Birdman and a handful of other bands might have been in contention).
Yeah, all the Birdman stuff etc was unavailable due to the reasons you've outlined.
Q Is that Boys Next Door demo ("Sex Crimes") unreleased? If so, what's the story there?
It's unreleased, but its not a demo. That was one of the songs that was recorded for their first album, but was never used. They scrapped a whole side once they got Rowland Howard in and recorded sum different songs that wound up on the "Door Door" album.
Q Finally, what's happening with your band The Naked Eye? That recent show you did up country was the first in how long? When's the next album?
We haven't been playing for various reasons, but we have been recording a new album. Its finished and mastered. We'll be playing a fair bit when it comes out. Hopefully that'll happen within the next few months. We're going to Tassie to do some shows and we'd like to come to Sydney and play. I'll let you know more when the time comes.
Q And seeing we're in a Bar, what are you drinking?
Herbal Tea...now that's punk!
"Alternative Animals" is reviewed here and is out now on
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