Posted April 4, 2006
DAVE THOMAS PUTS A TIGER
IN ROCK AND ROLL'S TANK
With just a couple of hundred copies of their debut, self-titled and independently recorded and released CD floating around, you could say Melbourne band Tiger By The Tail did things their own way. They didn't seek the limelight and the rudimentary, cut-and-paste blurb that accompanied the disc's release in late 2005 scarcely mentioned their main driving force, elder statesman Dave Thomas (most notably of seminal '80s and '90s Geelong band Bored!). The album had a disconcerting, almost psychedelic style that, although undeniably rocking, was far removed from most of almost anything Dave done before. (Our review is here). There was soon something of a buzz around about Tiger By The Tail and things, as they say, started moving.
Recent shows in their hometown have been well-received, with the band lining up on bills with luminaries like Rowland S. Howard. There are plans for CD and vinyl editions of "Tiger By The Tail" and a European tour is fast locking in for September (including an opening date in Germany, playing support to Radio Birdman). GRAEME THORNTON caught up with DAVE THOMAS over a few ales to see what's happening in the Tiger camp. Here's the result.
Q: Congratulations on a great record Dave, you must be pleased with it?
A: Thanks a lot, yeah we are pretty happy with it.
Q: You recorded it quite quickly at Birdland Studios with Lindsay Gravina who you have worked with before. Were the songs written quickly too, as I know this line-up had only been together for a few months?
A: Prior to this line up we had been probably jamming and playing shows as a three-piece for about nine months. After Mark departed on drums and Daniel came into the band we got James who was our mixer, moved him to second guitar and we wrote two songs, "Get Set to Go" and "Generator", we then booked in to record the set as it was at that time. I wanted to record at Birdland because I find it easy to work with Lindsay from past experiences and felt comfortable there. Also its a great studio and Rob the engineer is very cool!
Q: So what is the current line up of the band and where did they come from?
A: The current and best line up of Tiger by the Tail is Dan Dempster on drums - he also plays in the Sailors - James Saunders on second guitar and Michael Evans on bass. They recentley have been playing shows with Johnny Casino's (Asteroid B-612) Easy Action band. I guess it was me and Michael who formed the band after lots of drunk conversations about getting together to jam in about August 2004.
Q: Does having band members in other bands make it hard to rehearse and play shows?
A: Sometimes yes but I really don't want to overplay or spend too much time rehearsing. I like us to be a bit loose sounding it keeps you on your toes!
Q: Dave, you formed Bored! in the late 80s and went on to play in Magic Dirt as well as a few other projects such as Invivo with Fiona Maynard. How does this band and playing again compare to those times?
A: Well for example those three bands were all different in many ways. Bored! was formed in 1988 and lasted seriously until 1993. We did a lot of gigs, six records and toured Europe twice...we were young, we played loud and we were up for anything and the band was probably the most important thing in my life. The music scene was still naive and grunge was just hitting. It was a good time musically and it seemed like you could do anything, like anything!
As for playing in Tiger now the differences are, its no longer the most important thing in my life but that doesn't mean I don't love it just as much. Its just something that happens as you get older. Musically I like it more because I think I am writing better songs and lyrics too! I am not too interested in being involved in the scene so much, as I feel as though I am from a different generation as the new young bands around although they sound a lot like the bands I listened to years ago like the Joy Division and stuff like that.
The industry side of things really doesn't appeal at all. I liked Invivo a lot because we are great friends and it was a lot of fun to play and hang out with them too. Which is one thing I like a lot about Tiger is that we all get on well, hang out together and I think communicate openly with each other, which didn't happen with Magic Dirt.
Magic Dirt was a very disappointing experience that shouldn't have been. I loved the songs and the 'Friends In Danger' record I did with them but there was a retarded hierarchy and a communication breakdown with them and their manager. Its really something that put an ugly and sour taste in my mouth especially with the way I was asked to leave. It got me very down with the scene as it was then. I was quite jaded and quite rightly pissed off by the way I was treated.
The funny thing is with some of the Tiger songs now on our record, they were originally riffs I was working on at that time when I was sacked. I tried to form a new band a year after the split and play them, we jammed but I was unenthusiastic and nothing came of it. Although I do have a few live rehearsal tapes from then. That was about 1997 I think. Oh, and I guess the big difference is that this band is totally for fun and there are no dreams of trying to make it or score a record deal. I am still treating it as a casual and more as a hobby with no pressure.
Q: You mentioned new bands sounding like old bands. You were playing in bands pre 'grunge' and the 'new rock' of now. What is your opinion of young
bands these days?
A: There's a lot of cool young bands around. I like the ones that give something of themselves, that um, try to maybe make or achieve a sound or
style thats not a carbon copy of something they are influenced by. Sometimes an original idea can be the hardest thing to find. Look as you get older you see scenes and styles come and go. Everthing seems to repeat or be influenced by something before it. I don't think its a bad thing. You know,
The Sex Pistols musically were totally revolutionary and started arguably the most important era of music in the 20th century. But, they were influenced musically by the Stooges and the New York Dolls before them, but what they did is add what was inside of them, their environment, their feelings and the great thing was they couldnt play that good so they couldn't do carbon copies of what was on their stereos. I liked them a lot. I loved that story of Johnny Rotten wearing a 'I hate Pink Floyd' t-shirt at his audition!
That reminds me when they reformed and toured Australia. I caught a plane by chance with them from Canberra to Melbourne and saw Johnny in the airport newsagency. I couldn't talk to them, I was beside myself and got embarrassed. I did stare at them a lot though,and I can report they had very good manners and they didn't spit or throw up anywhere! ha ha ha!
Q: So you think originality is lacking in todays music?
A: Look, I don't really know, you know its weird. I guess I see things differently now. This is what I see. Lots of movies being re-made, T.V. series being made into movies, people wearing band t-shirts because they like the picture, bands doing cover-versions that get played on radio but radio won't play their originals, tribute bands playing whole sets of one band's music, tribute albums by several artists re-doing whole albums. There's too many Australian bands I hear that copy rather than be influenced by.
It doesn't help when you have some one like Triple J and other radio stations play what they call 'hot, new Aussie-bands', that are really bringing nothing thats 'hot' or 'new' to the table. I mean this really irks me that Triple J can vote an album by Wolfmother who sound like Black Sabbath with Jack White singing 'album of the year'. I could understand if the listeners voted for it , but to have the dee jays, who maybe should look for something more original sounding than picking a limp fish! By them choosing that it doesn't really inspire me with hope for a cutting edge sound coming out of Australia.
Q: Musically, I think Tiger By The Tail have achieved a unique and original sounding record. You know I can hear where I think some of your influences are coming from like maybe The Wipers, Dinosaur Jr and even The Pixies but there's an Aussie rocknroll edge to it?
A: Ha ha thats cool! Are you trying to get me to shout you another beer? I am a massive fan of all those bands. We have had the Pixies thing 'live' a few times. I think its because my singing can be all over the place and our songs have a bit of that dynamic quality that they had, maybe. I think that
I am not that great a guitarist and I am sure I am tone deaf, and I am hopeless at timing so I like to make stuff up on the guitar rather than base them on blues riffs or something that everybody else does. Maybe that gives us our sound I don't know.
You know when we jam we bring in a new riff or song and we all add our own parts to it and if it sounds too much like another band we drop it and do something else. I think like I said before, some bands, especially these days think its cool to reproduce or copy what someone else has done.
Q: Yes I agree your arrangements have a dynamic quality to them that really stands out. But, lyrically too some of it is really out there. Can I ask what some of them are about?
A: Sure, but you know sometimes it's best to leave it up to the listener's interpretation.
Q: The song 'Generator' with Fiona Maynard singing it with you, some lines seem to reference Lou Reed songs. Whats all that about?
A: Okay, ha you got that! The song is about change and living in the present forget about what was or what you did before. At the breakdown point of the song I sing 'Jackie quit the bank/Jane she's no clerk/Holly caught a plane and Candy's a jerk/Saving their moneys honey just doesn't work and all the colored girls sing la la la la la'.
If you listen to "Walk on the Wild Side" or "Sweet Jane" by Lou Reed, he sings about those characters and what they do. I changed it around to imagine what they might be doing now in the present. For example, Holly used to hitchhike and Candy was everybody's darling. It was a bit of a frustration relief aimed at all those people that love all those old bands but never seem to move on from that.
Q: Yeah well it sounds cool! What about "Heard You Got Released", "Would You Kill for Me" and "Beautiful Disgrace"? Those songs join together like one as you listen to them, and you also sing, 'I said hey John what's going on, and he said: Hey Dave leave me alone!' Is the song about drugs and some personal experiences?
A: Yeah you're right, and about being frustrated and bored with people's usage of drugs especially your friends. I liked the way we joined them. I imagined like a movie that cuts to different scenes wether its in the past, present or future. Those songs you can play in any order. As for the John and Dave reference. John can be anyone: it's just a name that gets commonly used in songs. I used myself, Dave, to underline the frustration and anger that you get when your friends use heroin.
Q: Ok, just a couple more. "Natural Enemy" and "My Disease"?
A: Well "Natural Enemy"...... that's about the war in Iraq and torturing prisoners it's pretty self explanatory. It's a song I like to play. "Disease" is about how I view the live music scene and how, if you're not careful, it will eat you up and you end up being this washed-up, embarrassing has-been! I can really relate to that one. Ha ha ha ha!
Q: Don't say that! You cover a song called "Too Much in Love With You". Who is that by?
A: It's by an old early '80s Melbourne band called The Jazz Sluts they never recorded anything. I really liked them. I got friendly with the singer Mike and we tried to form a band, but it fell apart he had a few problems to deal with. I dont even know where he is now or if he's alive.
Q: It's cool. That's too bad. I would love to hear more of their songs. Are you guys working on new material?
A: We sure are. We have at the moment about 10 songs I am hoping for another five or six before we go in to the studio. Hopefully we can record in May or June and hopefully it will come out as good as the current record. I think the songs are better, but then again I am biased! Ha ha.
Q: So this self-titled album is being released in Europe. Who is doing that?
A: This CD will be released by Funhouse Records in England and Bang! Records in Spain will be doing a limited vinyl version of it. I think it will be available here through Reverberation Records although I am not sure.
Q: I assume you will tour Europe then?
A: It's on the cards for September, hopefully. Should be a lot of fun. I think we have some shows booked with Radio Birdman which should be cool!
Q: You must have some good contacts for touring there?
A: Look I love Europe its great to go there anytime. I do have a few good friends I made there during Bored! tours and they are friends that will always be friends, so it will be great to see them again. As for contacts there's a couple but you know, the Bored! thing was a while ago now and those people that helped us have pretty much moved on. Actually we went there in 2000 for a three-week tour with myself, Buzz and Ben Watkins from Warped on bass as Bored! and we had a lot of people who saw us years ago come to the shows and say hello and get drunk. That was great! I hope they find out about Tiger by the Tail.
Q: Maybe you should do a couple of Bored! songs in the set too?
A: Yeah, ha ha maybe an acoustic Bored! bracket in the middle of our set!
Talking about Bored!, a compilation of our first record and the "Take It Out On You" album is being released in May on Afterburn Records through Missing Link Records in Melbourne. It's very flattering that there is still some interest in that stuff. It's a nice feeling.
Q: I cant wait.
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