Posted June 7, 2005
A going concern since 2001, young Melbourne band The Specimens have playing gigs around Australia and amassing a considerable body of work. Their debut EP "Burn City Burn" was followed in quick time by an album"Fast and Loose" that gained exposure on the national youth network, Triple J. And deservedly so. It was a potent mix of Detroit/Oz rock-influenced tunes, just thois side or raw. Next came "The Quick and The Deaf" (In-Fideilty), a quantum leap forward with better songs and more fully-realised production. It's the stuff that any fan of Radio Birdman, the Powder Monkeys or Rose Tattoo would revel in. Little wonder they've won the support spot on Radio Birdman's mini-tour of Australia in July 2005.
And soon, European audiences will be able to do just that - live - 'cos the Specimens are heading offshore. But first, there was a national Australian package tour with labelmates The Cants and the Kamikaze Trio - dubbed "The Young And The Restless Tour" - that was something of a dress rehearsal for their overseas sojourn. I-94 Bar reviewer SIMON LI caught up with the band - Tim, Terry, Adam and Bret - to speak to them about the past, present and future. Cartoon by RICK CHESSHIRE and live photos by TRACEY KEMP.
The Specimens came to the attention of the I-94 Bar through the "Burn City Burn" CDEP, how did the original lineup that recorded this EP meet?
Tim: Terry went to school with Adam and Brent. Then, Terry left his school and came to my school and that's how I met
Terry. So, we (Terry, Tim and Adam) knew each other all through school, but we did not meet our ex-drummer (Johnny 8 Ball) that way.
Terry: We met him through street press.
Tim: Yeah, we met him through a personal column in street press.
This was around 199-?
Tim: This was around 2001 and at end of 2002, we parted with Johnny 8 Ball.
When Terry and Tim met, why did you want to play in a band and what made you play your instruments?
Tim: I heard that Terry wanted to start a band, so I kept pestering him.
Terry: We used to play Pink Floyd together.
Tim: We used to do covers.
Terry: We used to do 60s garage and we used to love Pink Floyd, so that's what got us to jamming on old metal and old Pink Floyd stuff. Which was sort of strange.
Tim: (Black) Sabbath as well.
Terry and Tim both play guitar and both of you don't play any other instruments?
Tim: Brent was a bass player and Adam was a guitarist.
What were the first albums the band members bought and gigs band members attended?
Tim: First gig I went to would have been in 1995 where The Exotics and The Onyas played. Terry: The New Bomb Turks at the Prince of Wales Hotel (in St Kilda, Melbourne).
Tim: As well as The New Bomb Turks at the Prince of Wales Hotel gig was one of the first.
Brent: The first album I bought was "Peace of Mind" by Iron Maiden.
Tim: "Fresh fruit for rotting vegetables" by The Dead Kennedys was the first album I bought .
Adam: The first album I bought was The Exploited "The Exploited" which I actually stole from my brother and the first gig I went to was The Redresser at The Greyhound Hotel (in St Kilda, Melbourne). I didn't know it was The Redresser though, I just went along.
Tim: I remember there was a gig with Warped at The Green Room and we were drinking there one night and someone walked up to the singer of The Redresser and he said "Mate, Mum wants her hair back."
Terry and Tim had met first, then met Adam and then later met Brent, what music did the band like together as a unit?
Tim: When we started it was all rockabilly.
Terry: We were all into rockabilly mainly because the (ex-) drummer was into rockabilly.
Tim: We also liked The Dead Kennedys, Radio Birdman and The Saints. When Brent joined we started getting more into Radio Birdman and The Saints.
Terry: "Eternally Yours" was the first punk album I got into and what motivated me to play. We'd (Terry and Tim) started another band and when Tim and I heard that we liked that a lot and after rehearsals we would listen to that in the car all the time.
Had the members of the band played in other bands prior to forming The Specimens?
Terry: Myself and Brent were in a band together called "Norberts (?) Garden".
Tim: Terry and I had the band "The Gardeners" and we used to play 60s garage and we lasted two gigs.
Terry: We played a street festival and that was it.
Adam: I used to actually play in a band with Chris from Jet. We used to be high school friends and we used to jam, I never played any gigs with them.
Terry: They got rid of you (Adam) and never looked back.
Do any of the members of the band play in other bands currently?
Tim: I have been playing in a band with ex-members of Warped, Mustang and Dern Rutlidge called "The Actioneers" and we play MC5, Stooges, 13th Floor Elevators and Rolling Stones, but I probably won't be playing with that band for much longer and Brent (drummer) plays drums in an indie/goth/pop/experimental band called "Souls on Board" whom are a cross between British bands Radiohead and Placebo.
How did the band come to be named "The Specimens"?
Tim: Terry came up with the name for the band, although there is probably no great logic to it.
When did the band started playing live?
Terry: In June 2001.
From the forming of the band until the release of the "Burn City Burn" CDEP what was the timespan between these events?
Tim: About a year. We had put out a seven track self-released CDEP prior to releasing the "Burn City Burn" CDEP.
When the band formed, did the band started writing songs pretty quickly?
Terry: At our first rehearsal we started writing songs. Being a cover band did not interest us.
Tim: We got cracking on that right away.
Terry: We had some trouble playing our new songs at the start.
Adam: Sometimes we still do.
The songs which appeared on the "Burn City Burn" CDEP, were these at the time, the clear choices of songs, which the band wanted to record or were there other songs that the band might have wanted to record?
Tim: I reckon they were the best songs we had at the time.
Terry: Those songs were all we really had at the time.
Tim: When Brent joined that's when the band really sort of started.
Terry: Before that we were just kind of mucking around.
Tim: We became a more solid band when Brent joined.
Adam: The sound of the band changed completely also. Not purposefully but it just did.
How did the band get signed to the label that put out "Burn City Burn", Six Pack Records?
Tim: They were a local St Kilda label, whom were releasing stuff by local St Kilda bands like ourselves and Fort Mary.
Terry: Fort Mary were Sam and Andy from the bands Digger and The Pussycats and The Kamikaze Trio.
Following the release of the "Burn City Burn" CDEP, the band kept on gigging and would soon release the first album "Fast and Loose". Was there a long process involved in writing the songs for "Fast and Loose"? Were some or all of the songs which appear on "Fast and Loose", songs which the band had together around the time of the release of the "Burn City Burn" CDEP?
Terry: With the "Burn City Burn" CDEP, the first five songs we had learnt, we recorded them and then we wrote another next ten songs after that and we just recorded them. We weren't very picky with which songs we wanted to record.
Adam: We're a bit more picky now about the last few songs we've written.
Terry: Quality control is now a bit more of an issue.
With bands such as yourselves with two guitarists, between the two guitarists; one guitarist will stick to playing lead player and the other plays rhythm guitar, however with The Specimens both Terry and Tim seem to share the lead guitar work.
Adam: No, Tim handles most of the lead guitar work.
Brent: Believe it or not, I played most of the lead guitar on "Fast and Loose".
Following the release of "Fast and Loose" the band would have kept on gigging. Between the time the band started and until "Fast and Loose" did the band think that things were happening and the band was going places?
Tim: It wasn't until Brent joined the band that we realised that we would get somewhere. We realised that the band hadn't really started until Brent joined the band. It has been a bit of slow process, but we take things as they come.
The first goal was to play a gig at the Espy Front Bar (front bar of Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda) and we did that. The second goal was to getting an album out and we did that and the next goal was to get an album out on a label and we did that and the next goal was to try to get overseas.
We just got a release out overseas, the date of release for this we should be finding out in the next few days.
The band clearly considers the true beginning of the band was when Brent joined; when did Brent join the band?
Brent: In December 2002.
Tim: Brent played his first gig with the band in late December 2002 at The Corner Hotel (in Richmond, Melbourne) with Warped. We played a gig prior to that at The Duke of Windsor Hotel (in South Yarra, Melbourne) under the name "Delicate Tits".
Soon after this, we played a gig on New Years Eve 2002 / New Years Day 2003 also.
Between the release of "Fast and Loose" and now (March 2005), the band kept on gigging and has released "The Quick and The Deaf", amongst other things what have been the other major goings on for the band? Highlights?
Terry: A definite highlight was supporting DKT/MC5 at The Palace (in St Kilda). Also playing the Melbourne Big Day Out in January 2005 on the Triple R stage which was good. We thought we would be playing a smaller stage, but we played a good stage and got a good crowd which was a surprise.
Tim: Also getting our singles rotated on Triple J (the national youth radio network in Australia) was good and quite unexpected.
Terry: Also playing at The Forum Theatre (in Melbourne) was a bit of a rush, with The Datsuns tour. When we got on stage to play, we looked around and it was pretty amazing. I never thought we'd play a gig at a place like that, even as the opening band.
Terry, we're told that you are a cousin of one of the members of the band Jet, whom The Specimens helped out in the early part of their career, did they return the favour and help out on "Fast and Loose"?
Terry: They sang on "Fast and Loose" and helped us out.
Then with "The Quick and The Deaf" either some of the guys from Jet or The Casanovas were going to help you out?
Terry: Actually Cam from the band The Cants ended up doing backing vocals on "The Quick and The Deaf" and on the "Burn City Burn" CDEP, Sam from Fort Mary/Digger and The Pussycats/The Kamikaze Trio helped us out on backing vocals.
Tim: Next album we should get Mick Collins to help us out.
Terry: Bruce (Milne) has said he's going to bring someone out to help us with the next album.
From the band's previous releases, have there been highlight songs, which the band were glad to have recorded?
Terry: We're really pleased and happy with 'Head Straight' and 'Get on Top' (from "The Quick and The Deaf").
Tim: Out of the tracks on "Fast and Loose" my favourite was the title track, as well 'Lately'.
Terry: We've sort of evolved a bit as well through each album.
Tim: We're trying to move away from the traditional four on the floor.
Alongside highlight gigs such as supporting DKT/MC5 and the Melbourne Big Day Out in January 2005, any other highlight gigs?
Terry: The Melbourne Livid Festival in 2003, where we saw Turbo Negro and The Hellacopters for free was great. We were pretty stoked.
Adam: Playing The Barwon Club (Geelong) last week was great.
Tim: Supporting Rose Tattoo.
Terry: It was great to meet Angry (Anderson).
Brent: Playing with Rose Tattoo, how could get any better than that?
Tim: We could of played better.
Terry: They (Rose Tattoo) were the most lovely guys we've played with.
Tim: The Datsuns guys were pretty cool.
You should have seen Angry at the end when he walked out. I watched him walk out of the bandroom and onto the stage and I saw him just before he walked out and he looked in the mirror and grabbed a bottle of bourbon I'd had, he took a swig and went "Oww" and he walked off. He gets on stage and says "love you c.nts."
With the new album out now "The Quick and The Deaf", tell us about the overseas release and how that came about?
Tim: It will be coming out on Sweet Nothing/Cargo, with the help of Bruce Milne (Manager of Infidelity Records, label on which "The Quick and The Deaf" is released on).
Tell us about the production of the CD "The Quick and The Deaf" and how Lindsay Gravina was involved in the production of the CD?
Tim: He produced "Burn City Burn" and "Fast and Loose", and he likes us. He can hang sh.t on us and get away with it and we can hang shit on him and he loves it. He's not exactly the six million dollar man.
He's not (producer) Tony Cohen.
Tim: Apparently Tony Cohen is doing worse than Lindsay Gravina.
Adam: He's got some good suggestions though.
Tim: Lindsay's good. He knows what's going on. He's worked with bands that have come into prominence, like Magic Dirt and he knocks back a lot of bands from major labels which would pay him alot cause he can't stand producing.
Adam: The derivative shit.
Tim: We were really scraping the money together and he gave us five hours of free recording time, which he'd never give to many others.
How did the band meet up with Bruce Milne and his record label Infidelity?
Terry: We sent Bruce half of "Fast and Loose", which we ended up putting out through Shock Records.
We then sent him "The Quick and The Deaf" and he liked it and put it out and has put some money into it. We were really stoked that someone was willing to help us.
Tim: He's also got so many connections. He's pretty much said that anyone we want to work with, he'll get to help us.
Bruce has been around the Melbourne scene for 20-30 years and run Au-Go-Go Records.
Terry: He's also a genuine good guy. There are people out there that are like sharks, but I think we have hooked up with someone we can trust.
Tim: He's said to us and other bands on Infidelity, that anyone he's worked with in the past, name them and I'll bring them out for you and work with you.
Adam: He's trying to get Mick Collins from The Dirtbombs to come out and work with us.
The band would be looking forward to working with Mick Collins on the next album, what's going on with the next album?
Terry: We have four new songs down.
Adam: We're still writing songs.
Tim: We want to make sure that they're better than the last ten songs.
Terry: We want to make sure that on the next CD we get better, otherwise not bother.
Adam: The new record will be different.
Tim: The thing with writing songs is when your jamming them acoustically or in the studio, you don't know how they're going to sound on record. The song 'Janie', it's not my favourite song to play live, but on the record I really like it.
What are some of the bands you gig with in Melbourne? Would The Blacklist be a band you play gigs with?
Terry: We play with The Blacklist a lot. They're probably one of the best bands we play with, we really enjoy what they do.
Tim: They're kind of garage metal.
Adam: We also play gigs with the bands we've been touring with (on The Young and The Restless Tour) The Kamikaze Trio and The Cants.
Terry: We only play with good bands. We only play with good blokes and good bands.
The band has previously toured Sydney with (fellow Melbourne bands) The Sailors and The Casanovas?
Tim: We've also played with The Celibate Rifles and The Cosmic Psychos.
Are these bands, bands that The Specimens have always liked before playing gigs with them?
Tim: Yeah, we like those bands. We've also played a couple of gigs with Jed Whitey, but they're good dudes.
Terry: We only play with bands we like or people we like.
Has the band been put on any gigs where you've wondered, why you've been put on the gig lineup?
A gig where the band was seemingly mismatched with the rest of the other bands on the gig was the album launch gig in Sydney at The Arncliffe Hotel late last year?
Tim: That wasn't an actual launch. In fact that never happened.
Adam: That never happened. What are you talking about?
I thought it was a good gig, but The Specimens were poorly matched with the rest of the bands at that gig.
Adam: The highlight from that (weekend), and those gigs (the band played that weekend) was playing with Arbuckle the next day at a party.
Brent: Yeah, have you heard they're song 'The Language of the Streets'?
Brent: It's fantastic. He beat up a small kid on stage.
Tim: Did you see when he pushed a kid off stage?
Terry: This guy was playing a trumpet.
Brent: He was playing trumpet quite well and this other guy was a hopeless guitarist. The kid was about seven years of age.
So, the band has been on 'The Young and The Restless Tour' where has tour taken you to?
Tim: Hell and back. Actually, we've played Adelaide, Melbourne and a gig in Sydney. The gig in Sydney we've played has probably been the gig so far, all the bands played well.
Through the time that The Specimens have been playing around the traps, how long was it before you toured out of Melbourne?
Tim: It was probably a year before we started going interstate. We first played a gig interstate in Adelaide.
We've been told that at a gig in Brisbane either Terry or Tim dropped their guitar and walked out of the gig, half way through the gig, is that true?
Terry: Yes, that was me.
Although this would hardly be a highlight, could you tell us about that?
Brent: We we're playing a dodgy pub in Brisbane with The Aampirellas, when we got on stage Terry didn't like the sound on stage and you thought the crowd was a joke and we got two songs in and mid-song.
Adam: I started singing in the next song after that and that was our encore.
Terry: I actually went outside and started throwing up and I had just broken up with an ex-girlfriend that week so it was a bit of an emotional time for me. So I just played two songs and walked out.
Tim: No, you played four songs and walked out. At the next gig, the next night was one of the best we've ever done and Adam and Brent took microdots.
Terry: I just lost interest after four songs at that gig in Brisbane.
Did you notice people in Brisbane were drinking and drinking and drinking and then falling over in the crowd?
Terry: Yeah they do and I love it. I also love the music that comes out of Brisbane as well.
Tim: I love when they heckle too.
Terry: Besides Geelong, they're the best hecklers (in Brisbane). At first, its a bit of shock, but then you realise it's sort of good fun, so you start paying back on them and they love it.
Tim: That's why John Onya (from The Onyas) has such good comebacks (for hecklers), 'cause he was heckled for years.
I think I've noticed that crowds at gigs in Sydney are much more sedate and don't seem to know how to heckle.
Terry: No, exactly.
Tim: Apparently Tim Rogers (from You Am I) had a line, someone said "you're a fag" and he said "I might be a fag, but I'm gonna root you're girlfriend after the show."
Terry: Yeah, it's an Aussie tradition that should be kept up.
The band would be looking forward to the next album being released, so what are the prospects for the band to tour overseas?
Terry: End of 2005 hopefully. We're waiting on a release date for the album that will be released overseas, so we should find out the date of release for our overseas release quite soon.
Tim: I reckon mid September.
Terry: There are two booking agents whom I believe are semi keen and have said that they're keen, but these things can change. We've had interest from overseas before and its quite easy for them to pull out all contact.
Tim: The booking agents have said that once they get a release date, they can start working out what they can do for us. So many bands go overseas and don't have a release out overseas and people who see them there can't buy anything at gigs and radio can't play them because they don't have something to play on the radio. When The Onyas went overseas they had a release out overseas through Cargo Records and did really well.
Terry: We want to do it right when we go over there.
The band has also had some radio support through Triple J (the national youth radio broadcaster in Australia) and obviously community radio would have played your music in Sydney and Melbourne. Has the band been surprised by the support from radio?
Terry: We've been really pleased with the support of radio.
Tim: I've been told that Phil (Jamieson) from Grinspoon said in an interview that his two favourite records of the year were The Cants and The Specimens.
How willing are The Specimens to move away and progress from what is expected of the band and the sound of the band, as established through the music that has already been written, performed and/or recorded by the band?
Tim: We want to develop and progress, but we primarily want to keep the energy, but also incorporate some other elements into the bands sound.
We also want to change the production sound of our recorded music, so that we are heard properly. I think if we maintain the same kind of sound on our future recordings; as our previous recordings they won't be heard and people might think anything we record sounds the same as what we did before.
Since we're in a Bar, what are you drinking?
The Specimens: We're all drinking VB - Victoria Bitter, 'cause we're all bitter Victorians.
BACK TO THE INTERVIEWS PORTAL
LET'S GO BACK TO THE BAR