Dave Graney is a busy man. He hosts a radio show on RRR, he’s a prolific writer and he also has a well deserved reputation as an Aussie music legend. His recent album release Rock’n Roll Is Where I Hide is a collection of electric rock’n’roll re-recordings of a dozen Graney classics. Dave describes it as “our 3rd debut album”.
He’s also just put out a memoir, ‘1001 Nights’ which has the legendary rock showman taking us on a journey about growing up, finding your voice and hitting the right pitch. In August 1977, Dave sets off on a road-trip from small-town Australia, a young man fired up by punk rock, outside of life and looking for a way in. When he loses the map Graney finds his groove, then twists and turns his way through three decades as a working artist. This is no standard rock’n’roll trip; it’s Graney up close, out there and on his game. As he and his band get set to hit the road for the Rock N’ Roll is Where I Hide, Jim Murray caught up with him to find out about all things Dave Graney.
Are the songs on the new record re-recorded as much as ‘re-imagined’? I suppose that if an artist re-painted the same picture it wouldn’t be the same painting. Is this a similar situation?
Well the album is a real chance to hear how the Lurid Yellow Mist sounds. The Band. So its great to do that sort of thing through familiar songs. We’ve been playing these songs over the last dozen or more years and this band owns them. Great to have an album where Stu Perera, our blazing guitarist, really shines. Also I never used to play guitar in the days when these were recorded, started performing with that in the late 90s. So my licks are all over it too. So it’s more of a collective thing to me.
Why go back to old material as opposed to writing new material?
I had a whole new bunch of songs ready to go but I just thought that we needed to focus people on what we actually did. A lot of our recent releases were not getting to people because we presented great material in confusingly shifting ways.I also like all these songs and wanted to make them live again on disc.
How did you go about selecting the tracks for the album?
They’re all the songs that have been in our live set for a long time that we always thought made up a show. Songs people liked to hear or really thought were our defining sounds. Plus some that I’d always liked to do. 4 from the Soft n Sexy album and 4 from the follow up “the devil drives”. That album was one of my faves and none of the songs had been played live when we originally recored them. Songs like “feelin kinda sporty” were also real studio concoctions. It just whomps out the boogie on this one. Also 2 from “Night of the Wolverine” and two from “You Wanna Be There But You Don’t Wanna Travel”.
Was there a conscious approach in re-recording them to approach the arrangements or recordings differently as opposed to just simply ‘covering’ them live?
It’s the way we play them. We all stood in a circle and laid them down. The only overdubs are backing vocals.
What song selection can fans expect during your set on the forthcoming tour?
We’ll be doing a lot of these and a whole bunch of other songs we wil choose from and some songs by other artists. Depending what the rooms are like, I’ll be reading from my book and also doing songs that are related to that.
Your 1001 Australian Nights book is receiving rave reviews. The stream of conscience style is refreshing in a music bio. What particular writers have most influenced your literary style?
It’s a big part of the book where I copped my tone and stye from. Post punk music, r&b, jazz, hip hop and hard boiled crime writers.
You are a fan of music biographies. Which ones are amongst your favourites?
I just read a great one about Howlin Wolf, an artist that deserves that real academic approach. Otherwise I like books written by musicians. Zodiac Mindwarp’s Fucked by Rock, Mezz Mexxrow Really The Blues, Miles Davis’ Miles.
Your book paints a picture of you being constantly up against it – struggling against a small town, the music industry, indifference etc. Are you the epitome of the Aussie Battler?
No, quite the opposite. In my book I am talking about the indomitable winning artist. The drive. The juice. I dispute that I am up against it. I am prevailing.
There’s a real sense of anarchy in your vision in the book, which Nick Cave picks up on in his cover quote. Rather than a Sex Pistols ‘get pissed, destroy’ kind of anarchy, it seems to be a far more intellectual, absurdist approach – almost reminiscent of the Situationist Internationale. Did any particular book, events or experiences inform this approach which you appear to have maintained throughout your career?
Well I come from country working class direction and jumped into the post punk scene. That has given me enough petrol for decades now. I like books and TV and playing music. In general I have avoided rock n roll chumps. Types that do what journalists and music biz types tell them to do. You know, get wasted and destroy themselves. I’m against that. In recent years I have been greatly inspired by those French poets of the early 20th century. I mean, it s surreal that “the Anzac spirit” is pimped out so much in Australia. By the AFL and beer companies now so I’m just looking elsewhere in that era, which is so everpresent in our culture. The Surrealists and Dadaists who predicted that bloodshed and insane death toll. In our mainstream culture we just glorify the dead. That’s kooky and surreal enough for me.
Take us through your songwriting process a little. There’s a great quote in your book on p.91 ‘A great songwriter in the 21st century is not a person with the gifts of melody or lyrics or a feel for the zeitgeist. It’s a person with the touch of technology .’ Please elaborate.
Well Pharell Williams , Dr DOOOM , Andre 3000 and the RZA. they have the mad skills and the vision. Plenty of other great od school writers but that hip hop scene has brought new voices and themes and sensibilities.
Take that Jay Z tune “99 problems buta bitch ain’t one”. If that was done by Van Halen with Sammy Hagar or AC/DC or Wolfmother it would sound pretty lame and mean but Jay Z sounds like he’s having a great time with his problems. He loves his problems! That’s a thing with black American music. When the Yardbirds covered “I’m A Man” it was all wimpy white sex angst. When Muddy Waters did it, he was used to being called “Boy” all the time so “I’m a man” meant a lot more and you hear that.
That quote led to your reference to hip hop and dance as being amongst the most innovative genres. You’re a long term hip hop fan – what do you enjoy most about the genre and what current acts are you most getting in to?
Oh, Dr DOOOM, Lil wayne, Nas, Dirtchild, Black Spade, Ghostface Killah, the RZA, GZA, Plutonic, LIL KIM, Looking forward to the new Beastie Boys CD.
Ever the renaissance man, you’re now an author, regular magazine and music website contributor, musician and radio host on RRR. No doubt having done many interviews yourself, how does it feel to be on the other side of the desk in the radio studio?
Elizabeth McCarthy keeps me on my toes. It’s an honour to do it. I hear a lot of great music and do my best to play it. I felt I should play everything at first ( I mainly play Australian music) then I saw that it was so easy to record nowadays that people who would’ve been weeded out in the old days-disappointed early on-get to record their stuff. They don’t have to really commit themselves very much. And you can hear that slackness. I do hear a lot of great stuff though.
What Aussie artists are on high rotation on your iPod at the moment?
Well I have no iPod and don’t want one. I like albums and also don’t want music wherever I go. Sons of Rico, Laneous and the Family Yah, Art Vs Science, Go Go Sapien, Jane Dust, the Sand pebbles, the Ancients, Kes Band, Grand salvo, Wagons, Cloud Control, Sianna Lee, No Through Road.
Yourself and Clare are currently forming the rhythm section for Harry Howard – do you like sitting back and letting someone else take the limelight on stage from time to time?
Harry is an old friend we knew from before he was in These Immortal Souls and Crime and the City Solution. He said he was doing an album and I said we’d be the rhythm section and here we are. An album in the can. We just knew where his songs were going. Harry and Edwina are a formidable front line and really throw themselves into the performance. I don’t have to worry about nothin but playing and I like that.
Is your collaborator Mark Fitzgibbon the same Mark Fitzgibbon who is Aussie jazz legend Smacka Fitzgibbon’s son?
Yes, a very musical family. His sister Nichaud is a jazz singer around Melbourne and there’s another brother who plays the drums. Mark is a powerhouse player. I am so impressed when i present a song and he has to stop and figure out how to play a chord because he does most things pretty immediately. When I stump him and he has to bring out a blank page of sheet music to scrawl on I am very happy. I have made the maestro twitch!
Forgive one last vanity question, but as the most dapper gentleman in Australian rock n’ roll, we need to know where you get the inspiration for your various ‘looks’ and outfits from? Can you give us a few hints to your sources?
I don’t talk about clothes. If people are doing that about you, you’ve done something wrong.
DAVE GRANEY & THE LURID YELLOW MIST
will be performing the music of ‘Rock’n Roll Is Where I Hide’ at the following fine venues:
Thurs May 5th THE BENDED ELBOW, Yarra St, Geelong VIC
PH: 03 5229 4477 www.oztix.com.au
Frid May 6th THE BENDED ELBOW, Lydiard Street, Ballarat VIc
PH: 03 5332 1811 www.oztix.com.au
Sat May 7th The Northcote Social Club, 301 High Street, Northcote, VIC
ALBUM LAUNCH “ROCK’N’ROLL IS WHERE I HIDE”
w/- special guests Go Go Sapien.
Ticket enquiries PH:: (03) 9486 1677
or purchase direct from The Corner Box Office, 57 Swan St, Richmond
Sat May 14th THE REPUBLIC BAR, Elizabeth St, North Hobart TAS
PH: 03 6234 6954 www.republicbar.com or www.moshtix.com.au
Thurs May 19th Notes, 75 Enmore Road -Newtown, NSW
PH: (02) 9557 5111 www.noteslive.net.au
Fri May 20th The Vault, 146 George Street – Windsor NSW
PH: (02) 4587 8146 www.vault146.com.au/
Sat May 21st Coogee Diggers, cnr Carr & Byron St, Coogee, NSW
PH: 02 9665 4466 www.coogeediggers.com.au
Sun May 22nd THE CLARENDON HOTEL, Katoomba NSW
PH: 02 4782 1322 www.clarendonguesthouse.com.au
Thurs May 26th Lizottes, 4/5 629 Pittwater Road, Dee Why NSW
PH: 02 9984 9933 www.lizottes.com.au
Fri May 27th Lizottes, Central Coast, Lot 3 Avoca Drive, Kincumber NSW
PH: 02 4368 2017 www.lizottes.com.au
Sat May 28th Lizottes, Newcastle , 31 Morehead St, Lambton NSW
PH: 02 4368 2017 www.lizottes.com.au
Thurs June 2nd THE GOLLAN HOTEL, 73 Keen Street, Lismore NSW
Show info www.sideshowpresents.com.au
June 3rd Jubileee Hotel – Brisbane
07 3252 4508 Tix from Hotel Box Office
June 4th Sol Bar- Maroochydore
(07) 5443 9550 www.oztix.com.au
Sun June 5th THE GREAT NORTHERN HOTEL – Byron Bay, NSW
Ph: 02 6685 6454 www.oztix.com.au
Further shows to be announced for WA & SA in coming weeks.