Posted August 18, 2008

Different Like Them

Like Mark Twain’s assessment of his rumoured demise, the stories of Rocket Science’s departure from the live music scene have been greatly exaggerated.

Sure, things weren’t looking too good in mid 2004, when lead singer Roman Tucker was focusing on learning to walk and speak after spending time in an induced coma after an on-stage head injury, or even a couple of years later, when, having departed amicably from the Modular label, the various band members struggled to find time to work together, in between getting married, having children and playing in other bands.

But finally Rocket Science re-grouped, entered guitarist Paul Mayberry’s recording studio and recorded its fourth album, “Different Like You”.Subject to the plethora of competing priorities that differentiate life in one’s 30s from the hedonistic 20s, Rocket Science gives all the signs of being back as a going concern.

Rocket Science bass player Dave Gray began his musical life in Adelaide in the mid 1980s, forming part of the then thriving local music community built around Doug Thomas’s Greasy Pop record label, and which included the Exploding White Mice, the Lizard Train, the Twenty Second Sect, The Plague, the Screaming Believers and the Handmedowns (which featured Gray). In around 1994 Gray answered an invitation from the late Guy Lucas, former lead singer with legendary garage band The Philisteins (who had moved from Hobart to Adelaide), to join Lucas in The Freeloaders. “I loaded up the car with all my stuff, put my quad box on the roof, and drove across in my station wagon,” Gray says.

It was while living in Melbourne a few years later that Gray spoke to Roman Tucker, then formerly of The Martians. At the time Tucker was playing in The International Jetsetters – “a keyboard and vocal thing doing airline inspired music,” Gray says. Tucker was interested in forming a band, and rang Gray to see if he’d be interested in a new musical venture.

“Roman rang me up out of the blue, and said ‘I’m interested in starting a new band – do you mind if I send you a tape?’ So he dropped a tape around in my letterbox shortly after,” Gray says. Gray was immediately impressed. “I was open minded, but when I put it on I fell in love with it straight away. The songs on there were “Burn in Hell,” “6’ 4,”” Copy Cat” and “Welcome Aboard the 3C10” – so basically all the best songs the band’s ever written,” Gray laughs.


Tucker was also playing in Velvet Tongue with Kit Warhurst – a puppet based performance act with Tucker and Warhurst contributing guitar and drums respectively – and Tucker suggested Warhurst for the drumming spot. Paul Mayberry was identified as a suitable candidate for the vacant guitarist’s position, a provisional nomination that was confirmed almost as soon as the first rehearsal was finished. “At the end of the night I went home, and Paul phoned me at about two in the morning, and said ‘Was that as good as I thought it was?’ And it was – it was really inspiring chemistry that was there from the very first rehearsal,” Gray says.

From there Rocket Science went from strength to strength. Rocket Science released two killer studio albums, and travelled to the United Kingdom on three separate occasions. In April 2004, fresh from recording the band’s third album, “Eternal Holiday” and on the eve of a national tour to promote the first single from the album, Tucker collapsed and was placed in an induced coma. Despite making what can only be described as a remarkable recovery, Rocket Science, like Tucker, had to recover lost ground.

Do you think Rocket Science lost a lot of momentum at that time? “Probably a lot more than I thought we did,” Gray says. “I’m told we did, but at the time I didn’t think so,” he says. “Ideally we would have been playing and touring, rather than spending time in a rehabilitation centre,” Gray says dryly. “So in that sense the timing was wrong – there were a lot of people who might have heard the record, and didn’t – so in marketing sense, it wasn’t a good strategy,” Gray laughs. “But if it’s a good record, then people will still listen to it – it doesn’t matter if it was recorded in 1965 or 1985, if it’s good it will still sound whenever you listen to it,” Gray says.

After touring in support of “Eternal Holiday,” Rocket Science played a scintillating show headlining the Guitar Wolf tribute show (“that was one of our best shows, ever – we definitely channelled the spirit of Guitar Wolf that night,” Gray says), before entering a two-year hiatus. During the band’s downtime, Tucker travelled to England to get married, Gray became a father, Mayberry got married and set up his recording studio and Warhurst pursued various musical activities. “We would have liked to have continued playing, but various things got in the way,” Gray says.

Eventually the planets lined up and Rocket Science regrouped to write and record the band’s fourth album, “Different Like You”. Gray never believed the band would break-up, and the decision to release another album confirmed Rocket Science’s continuing existence. “When we get together there’s a great chemistry, and if we were to break-up I’d be a little bit bitter in the sense that I think we’ve still got good music to make,” Gray says. “There’s already about eight songs that were left off ‘Different Like You’ that could easily be the basis for a fifth Rocket Science album as well,” Gray says.

“Different Like You” is the first Rocket Science album released without the backing of Steve Pavlovic’s Modular label. “Modular always gave us a lot of freedom, and always let us make the sort of music we wanted to make,” Gray says. “They’d pick the single, which is fine, because it’s a marketing tool, and signing off on the cover art, which is the hardest thing in the world to do,” Gray laughs. “We were going to record at our own studio, and we put a budget submission to Modular and they said they weren’t really interested in continuing the partnership,” Gray says.

A lack of label support wasn’t sufficient to end Rocket Science, and the band resolved to record and release the album under its own steam. The band headed into Paul Mayberry’s studio in East Brunswick and laid down the tracks that wound up on “Different Like You”. With a combination of Mayberry’s production and mixing expertise, and some rum to tune Tucker’s vocal chords, Rocket Science were back in business.

Having spent the best part of a year finalising the record, Gray is very happy with the results. “When it was finally mastered, we thought ‘this is awesome’,” Gray says. “All Paul’s hunches came to fruition – we had to say to Paul: ‘Thanks for all your hard work, and sorry for putting you through all that stress – you’ve made an awesome record!,” Gray laughs.

Saturday, August 30 - Green Room, Canberra, ACT
Thursday, September 4 - Hopetoun Hotel, Surry Hills, NSW
Friday, September 5 - Hopetoun Hotel, Surry Hills, NSW
Saturday, September 6 - Hopetoun Hotel, Surry Hills, NSW
Thursday, September 11 - Prince Of Wales, Bunbury, WA
Friday, September 12 - The Norfolk, Fremantle, WA
Saturday, September 13 - Amplifier Bar, Perth, WA
Saturday, October 11 - Sounds of Spring Festival/RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane, QLD