Posted November 6, 2005

There are '60s bands and then there are The Hekawis. A four-piece consisting of Screamin' Stevie on organ, guitar and harmonica, The Eagle on bass, The Sheik on guiitar and The Ox on drums, they hail from Brisbane, a once sleepy backwater that's now a truly international city with its own laicback style. So too the Hekawis, who come across as a musical meeting point for the sounds of the Missing Links, ? and the Mysterians, the Count Five and the Music Machine, but with their unique vision applied. They have a sound all theiur own - like Scoobie Doo's clapped-out tour van, teetering on the edge of a coastal mountain road with two bald tyres gripping the asphalt and the other two hanging off into space. Over the course of four albums ("Sweet Soul Music', "The Hekawis", "Born Yesterday" and the newie, "Intellectuals") and too many singles and split singles to name, they've churned out their own warped, slacker version of soul, '60s punk and psych with unerring charm and a determinedly lo-fi sound. At times shambolic but never calculated or forced, the Hekaiws have been around for more than a decade, cutting satorially elegant figures with valve amps and American Indian headresses, all up and down the Australian East Coast and overseas. THE BARMAN  decided to pay bassist and Wild Eagle Records label head EAGLE a call and get the skinny on what he and his fellow Intellectuals are up to. RICK CHESSHIRE did the cartoon.

Q Thanks for joining us in the Bar, Eagle. Ten years for the Hekawis. Who would have thought? Now tell us how you brought in the decade back in April?

E-Thanks for the invitation Barman.To celebrate we played a special show at the Zoo niteclub with some very cool bands -The Golden Orbs and Rollcage. We also released our “Sunshine" b/w "Four Flights up” single off our new L.P which we recorded early 2004.

Q Take us through a brief history of the band. Am I right in saying that you started life as a party band with the emphasis on surf instrumentals?

E-The first line-up was me on bass, Brett ‘Rotten Eagle’ Barton [guitar] Screamin Stevie [vocals, organ], Dave ‘Nature Boy’ Hogan [drums] and Rob.E.Regal [saxaphone].That was in 1993,since then we’ve been together for 12 years, touring around the country in our dune buggies and mini bikes and playing at County Fairs and winning Battle Of The Bands contests.

We’ve had more line-ups than I could list here. Basically we’ve always had members of the bands we were in before. All the original guys except Rob were in ‘The Bluebirds of Happiness’ in the late 1980s and we’ve had members of Apaches, Disciples from Brisbane and Later Saucermen and Shutdown66 in Melbourne.I think the only guys not from those bands was “Mick 2” [drums or awhile in 1994] and Richard and “Scratchy” Dave from the Busymen who would fill in later on. And yes we have played a lot of parties and residencies in our time. It was always like a party with the early line-up when we got together in our fish lane practice room/recording studio late at night , the afternoon or whenever.

Q You haven't been exclusively a Brisbane fixture, spending a couple of years in Melbourne in 1999-2000. What was the story there?

E - In Melbourne we got Mick Blackfeather [Shutdown66, Breadmakers, Saucermen] on guitar and Lord Geoffrey Dunbar [Saucermen,Gamma Rays] on drums. Both had played in the Saucermen and Shutdown66 so we didn’t need to try em out.. We just asked them to join then booked a residency
at the Corner Hotel to get a setlist together.

This is the lineup that did Queenscliff Blues Festival,played in Europe and the Wild Weekend 2000 in the U.K as The Hekawis and Shutdown66 plus lots of gigs in Melbourne/Victoria with local and overseas bands .You can hear them on ‘You Lie’ and ‘Time Is Running Out’ on the "Born Yesterday" LP, the "Back To Mexico" 45 and both sides of on the "Live to Acetate" split single. Eventually we were pushed out of the scene by other bands like The Exotics, The Hands of Time, Dr Fuck,The Stuntcar Drivers, and Boba Fett who were jealous of the Hekawis because we were stealing all the women and Hekawis we’re on the verge of superstardom down there.

Q The Hekawis - and your own Wild Eagle Records - have a strong connection with Corduroy. How did that come about?

E - It was Nick Phillips who asked the Hekawis to record our song "The Spook" for his Corduroy Records and since then they’ve released most of our records. Nick suggested our own label for our follow-up single which was “Flowers in The Night" b/w "On This Day” on the infamous Wild Eagle Records.

Q Speaking of Wild Eagle Records, you're unleashed some of the best lo-fi stuff in Australia in recent years. Have a lot of people warmed to that asthetic? What's in the pipeline for the label?

E - Lots of people love the 7" records.Most have been very limited pressing -200-300 and are out of print. Next release is Spanish group the Fumestones – “Night of The living Deaf” 10 track CD of their early recordings.Also posthumous releases by the Cool Millions and The Uptight. Out now is The Money, "It's a Shit Bussiness" [live CD] and The Hekawis' "Intellectuals" CD.

Q You're obviously a fan (like me) of the 7" single... .

E - Yes, like yourself all the Hekawis are avid record collectors and music fans. Ive snatched up a few good ones over the years - mostly I go for U.S sixties punk/Aussie Beat and top 40 British and U.S bands like the Animals,Troggs,Sam The Sham etc.Also The Aussie and overseas guitar 80s stuff . I have nearly all the Lyres and most Sunnyboys 45s but theres always more to get.

Q What are some of the supports the Hekawis have done over the years? While we're on the subject, how about the worst one too?

E - We have been offered a lot of support shows in our time.The Hoodoo Gurus “Spit the Dummy” was a good one - it was the first time Hekawis had been included on a bill for so many shows and we had a lot of fun fighting with Died Pretty and stealing chicken from the Gurus. We got to see them for free every night which was very cool and in fact we liked it so much we even asked their manager if he wanted to make us the new Gurus. Probably he’s still thinking about it...

Radio Birdman, The Stems, You Am I, Screaming Lord Sutch, Bobby Dixon [son of Willie!], Dick Dale, Facefull, Guitar Wolf, Phantom Surfers, BaldDiddly, Kim Salmon, Dirty Three, Fireballs, Breadmakers, Exotics and most recently Lords of Gravity and Asteroid at their CD launches. These are just some of the supports we've done as Hekawis and Disciples. We played with the 5678s a few times - some fine scalps there Barman! It was the Hekawis that ate their cookies when they played in Melbourne - you can see why we have a reputation as the “Bad boys of Rock” in the Australian music scene.

Probably worse support for me was Kim Salmon at the Zoo niteclub because I got done for drink driving without a license when I crashed my dune buggy which wasn’t very cool.

Q The Indian headress, I understand, has become something of a trademark over the years. Are you guys still wearing them and how did they come into the act?

E - We wear them most of the time except Stevie who wears a cape and womens sunglasses.It wasnt till Brett started booking proper shows that we started wearing them.

Q What's the current line-up of the Hekawis? You seem to go through a lot of drummers. How come and are they as hard to find as they seem to be in Sydney? What's the Flying Ox's pedigree?

E - There's never been that many – just the same guys that come and go a lot. Our mate Dave ‘Nature Boy’ Hogan was our first and main drummer and even though he would often go AWOL on us, he would always come back and drum for the Hekawis when we needed him most. When Dave passed away in 1998 we got in Mick ‘Thundersticks’ Mcntyre who quit [again!] and finally Geoff [Lord Dunbar] was just the right guy, but then he likes living in Melbourne and we can't afford to fly him up for shows..The Ox [Jim] replaced Stefan, who replaced Geoff. and so far Jim has done maybe 10 Brisbane shows plus the Melbourne/Sydney jaunt we did in may for "Intellectuals". He makes his recording debut on The Hekawis -"I Live in a Cave" out soon on a compilation on Head Dip Records so you can check him out there.

The current line-up is Screamin Stevie (organ,vocals,harmonica), The Sheik (guitar), Flying Ox (drums) and Eagle (bass).

Q Album number four is well and truly out ("Intellectuals") and you've marked that with a very dark, almost hard psych single in "My Sunshine". Is that reflective of a new direction?

E - The single was recorded as part of the sessions for our new LP so yes,that’s definitely an indication or reflection of what "Intellectuals" is about. We all played a part in the songwriting - even Lord Geoff who's stompin' "Changeling” [and him!] were late additions to the recording session. Screamin Stevie makes his lead guitar debut on "Stink Bug Theme" so you gotta have a listen for that.

The songs were written 6-12 months prior and right up to the recording session so they are all new with no redone versions like the last LP. It's been out for a few months now - the reaction has been very good from both longtime and new listeners. A few reviews have missed the point and complained about the lo-fi sound and even the songwriting and our state-of-mind, but we like it and the Hekawis are confident we will be finally making our ARIA debut with this one.

Q I thought "Jets vs the Vines" was a great potential title, by the way.

E - Jet vs Vines was good for awhile but the Vines must have won when they called their LP Winning Days” and then kicked a camera into a girl's face.

Q "The Hekawis" was the last album which featured a few of the "Born Yesterday" tracks re-recorded. "The Hekawis" was obviously an attempt to get a better sound (and it worked.) You're not going to go all techno on us on the next one are you?

E - "Intellecutals" is live with a few overdubs.The whole thing was recorded at the old Corduroy offices in five days on the Shutdown66 desk, Acetone and Goldentone amps with Corduroy staff and anyone else around while we were recording . Nicky Shutdown was in control and doing his “all live” thing in line with his old fashioned rock 'n' roll and old school values but Mikey was cool and let us do some extra stuff we needed like back-ups, percussion etc.

We had Ollie Laurie [Exotics, Shonky Tonk] on bass for a few songs plus Lord Geoff drummed on the thing so we slept on the floor of his tiny flat and travelled out to the factory everyday to record. We had grand plans for our “Heavy Psychedelic” record but really in the end “Sunshine” is the only true psych song on there and a few others maybe heading that way.

Mikey's [engineer] favourite Hekawis record is “Monkey Woman” which was an attempt to get a classic 1950s blues sound. Mikey was keen on getting this sound for the LP and he succeeded. so it's kind of lo-fi. We didn’t take the thing too seriously; it was anything goes and most songs were done in one or two takes with lots of outside distraction. It has more of a barnyard feel more than anything as opposed to the ‘big’ studio sound on the last LP which was a deliberate attempt to get a loud recording for the radio and for Albi Records who was going to release it and put some money behind promotion, filmclips etc., but it never happened.

This new one’s live with lots of fuzz guitar and harmonica – it has an old style feel about it and probably more suited to a 78rpm record or one of those early Edison wax record things than a CD. What I’m trying to say is that "Intellectuals" is definetely not modern sounding garage music, nor is it supposed to be.

Q What's the thing that stands out to you as the most distinctive element of the Hekawis' sound? If you hate to give me three names of bands whose sounds or qualities you'd most like to have, who would they be?

E - ? and the Mysterians for the stomp mentality and dancability that the Hekawis have always craved...Curtis Knight [without Hendrix] for the way-out psych freakouts, fuzz guitar and loose values and...The Kinks for the tradition, in-fighting and mental problems.

The most distinctive thing to me in the Hekawis is Stevie's voice and keyboards/organ.He's a talented organ player plus a great singer and gets better the more
burned out and damaged his throat gets over time. He will make a great blues/piano and harp player one day if he isn’t already.

Q I mean this in the most complimentary way but the best Hekawis songs sound the most dishevelled. Is that a reasonable thing to say?

E - The Hekawis learnt to play when we were young from watching the Banana Splits and Lancelot Link and the Evolution Revolution on the television - we just kind of throw our arms around like they do and it looks pretty cool. I mean, really, do you think Tim Rogers invented the “windmill”? No way - that’s a classic Fleagle move. Also that’s our blues and rock 'n' roll roots you're hearing, Barman. There is a lot of that on the new LP - it shines through in everything we do. Besides '60s punk, soul and the heavy psychedelic sounds, we are also inspired by the first wave of rock 'n' roll and earlier - just like the Missing Links, Rolling Stones, Hasil Adkins, Pretty Things, Pink Finks, Stooges. Revered guys like Leadbelly, Howlin' Wolf, Jerry Lee, Hank Williams, Little Richard and so many others.

Q The Hekawis appeared on the soundtrack of a movie last year called "Lesbo-a-Go-Go". True story? I heard it was something to do with Andrew Leavold, the guy who runs the Trash Video store.

E - Stumpy wanted us to play live in the movie but we were away or never got back to him in time.He ended up choosing “The Sadist” from the
"Telstar" EP and “Hekawi a Go Go” from the "Sweet Soul Music" LP and they work well in the movie which is pretty messed up to say the least.

Q Where are some of the places the last few Hekawis releases got played? Any prospects of another overseas tour for the Hekawis?

E - We are kind of an “underground” underground band but are known pretty much the world over in our own small way.It would be good to go overseas again but I don’t know if it will ever happen again.

Q Even with a handful of venues (or maybe because of it), it strikes me that Brisbane has a really vibrant crop of "underground" (for want of a better term) bands at the moment? Do you want to push some barrows for some of the better bands up there at the moment?

E - I've pushed enough barrows with the record label and on for the best local bands over last few years: The GoldenOrbs, Busymen, Seventeens, The Money, The Fondelles, Jennys, Feelin Lucky and the Dangermen are all bands that would interest I-94 Bar readers. There's new bands like the Hits, Dirty Bullets that I've only heard about. The Disables, Gazoonga Attack, Wretched Villains and Vegas Kings have all been around for a while. Mick Medew has The Rumors happening ,then there are Big Bongi'n Baby, Aampirellas, Hymies, Surfari Krishnas, The Pits, Mick Hadley from the Purple Hearts, Ed Kuepper. The Onyas are back in town. The list goes on…

Q You Brisbanites seem to be the only people active on the Aussie forum.

E- That’s just a few bored people goofing off at their jobs – the guys you gotta watch out for don’t have computers like Boston Bob and Gutterball Pete.

Q I know you were soon off overseas with Shutdown66 earlier this year.

E- That’s Jamie Shutdown's bag Barman - he was flying high for awhile but now he's back at home and licking his wounds after the latest overseas tour and is apparently on strike from Shutdown66.

We all warned him of the excecces and rip-offs of rock 'n' roll but he wouldn’t listen. He does his chores during the day and at night he has his DVDs. He stays in his room a lot - muttering to himself and listening to old Shutdown recordings that never came out. Kind of tragic if it wasn’t so darn funny. I ripped this out of his diary – kind of reads like a 3rd Grader's book report. Hope it’s a help!:

"We did eight shows overseas and five in Melbourne. We played with the most awesome bands - Tell Tale Hearts in San Diego,The Knights of the New Crusade [who were religious] + The Mothballs in San Francisco, The Cynics in Pittsburgh, Fortune and Maltese + The Riots in Detroit and The Fumestones in Madrid, which was insane. At the Wild Weekend we played between the Rippers and the Monks on the last night who were both excellent .On the way home we stopped in japan and played with a great punk band- the Awakes at the U.F.O club. I also slept on the beach in Spain and went looking for Skunks in San Diego with Scotty66.We were pretty smelly/putrid by Tokyo so our guides took us to “Cento" Japanese bathhouse which was kind of disturbing..”.

Q Since we're in a bar, what are you drinking?

E - Absinthe with Camel Grass juice.