Posted July 27, 2006

Tony Mott photo

Ian Rilen's down the phone line from Sydney's Big Jesus Burger studios, standing at the finish line of the mixdown for what the veteran says is the best album of his career. Sure, everyone says that about their latest project, but Ian's a guy who cuts to the chase and doesn't lay on the bullshit.  

"It sounds absolutely huge," he says of the 19-song effort, which will probably be cut down to 14 tracks for release. "Chris Townend (from Big Jesus Burger studio) says the guitars are fighting each other all the way through, like they’re in a dogfight.

"Big Jesus Burger really is a primo place to record - 16 tracks on two-inch tape - and this is the first time I've been able to get the whole band in the studio," he says of his third solo effort, as yet un-named but slated for an August release on the Phantom label.

"When we've tried in the past, other things came up. Cath was having a baby or someone had something else on." 

"The whole band" is The Love Addicts, the magnificently down and dirty combination of Ian on vocals and guitar, Kim Volkman on guitar, Cathy Green on bass and Dave Nicholls on drums. They swing, they snarl, they swagger, and there's something extra special about the way they deliver in the live setting. If they've managed to capture that same magic on tape - and reliable third parties say that's the case - then this shapes as an album to relish. 

Which is exactly what Ian did with his 10 days in the studio. By now, most of the Australian music world knows he's wrestling with cancer, and although he won't make a big deal of it, there's a strong feeling among the people that are close that the Love Addicts made every minute of recording count. While first takes might have been good enough on the solo-credited "Love Is Murder" and 2004's "Passion, Boots & Bruises", this time the whole band brought everything to bear to make sure they were 100 percent happy. 

Much of the material was worked up on the spot with only a few songs tested live, so there was a need to build on the spontaneity. There were a few old chestnuts committed to tape, but most songs are new. And if the band has a hard-won reputation for partying hard, these sessions were more focused, with everyone's families flying in from Melbourne.  

"I've given up smokes and cut back on drinking," says the man who wrote "Booze to Blame" and treated it as his theme song. He limited himself to a few glasses of red ("you can't give up everything") and some medicinal herb. A far cry from past excess. 

"I have good days and bad days. It's just like life," Ian says of his health. "I just do what I have to do."  

Right now, what that involves is heading home to Melbourne for shows, managing a program of medical treatment and planning the album's release.  

One of the medium-term ideas - finally - is to spend three months n Europe, where Aussie-obsessed Spanish label Bang! Records has signed the Love Addicts. The plan would be to use Spain as a home base, and travel from there. There's also talk of Ian's back catalogue being re-issued and the release of another long-threatened X live album, recorded at Annandale, but he prefers to leave that to others and focus on the Love Addicts and their future.  

"In the near future, we have quite a lot of gigs lined up locally," Ian says - and there's a strong impression he's bursting to play the newer stuff live. One tune that will be hard to replicate is a voice-and-piano piece with guest pianist James Cruickshank of the Cruel Sea, "Song For Romeo", a lullaby Ian wrote for his infant son.

We can, however, expect "Family From Cuba" ("a real bad voodoo song") to get an airing, as well as "Anytime You Want Me".  

"It's a dreadful pop song," Ian says of the latter, "That we absolutely trashed to pieces."

"We did it in a way that was filthy and rotten and disgusting. In my usual style, there are about 10 words in it and the guitars went on forever!"

Long may those guitars - and Ian Rilen and the Love Addicts - run.  - THE BARMAN