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Deck The Hall

SquashaPromoter Ken ‘Squasha’ Knight (Altered State/Big Day Out) has been named as the 2013 Inductee to the WAM Hall Of Fame, to be presented at the awards night this Friday, November 8, at the Astor Theatre. “In a lot of cases,” he tells BOB GORDON, “isolation breeds creativity.”

It’s a volatile industry, what’s it like to receive this pat on the back?

It’s definitely very humbling. I’m feeling very honoured to actually receive that pat on the back. I never thought it would actually happen. It’s all good.

Were you always going to be in the music industry or did it start – as it does for many – by accident?

Well I always had a passion for music, but I was never very good at playing it. I actually had a set of drums and tried banging them, but I gave them to good old Russell Hopkinson (You Am I) who actually became a musician. I still had the passion for music, it was still a big part of my life, so I had to find somewhere else and promotion was the next way to go.

Tell us about Mob Vengeance…

(Laughs) The legendary Mob Vengeance? That was a band we played in, there was Matt Snashall, myself, Russell Hopkinson and a couple of different guitarists. We were one of the early Perth punk bands; there wasn’t too many places we were actually able to play at the time. The West Australian public was a bit terrified of people with green and pink hair. We had a residency for a while with The Quick And The Dead, the big skinhead band at the time. We used to have to play in the daylight hours at the City Hotel, which is now the Belgian Beer Cafe, on the corner of King Street.

Then we played at other salubrious bars, such as the Bega Tavern, I believe it was called, out in Gosnells. We were allowed to play there at night (laughs). Then we became the first ever punk band to do a North West tour. I think the arduous journey of us being stuck in that bus together for so long was the end of us (laughs).

This is around ‘81-’82?

Probably about ‘82-’83. It’s all a bit hazy going back then.

You were still drumming?

I started off as the drummer, then I gave the sticks to Russell and I became the singer.

Like Phil Collins?

(Laughs) Well it was a much better move because Russell actually did something with the drums. Rather than me, who just sat  behind them.

The Wizbah was a great ‘80s venue. What are your memories?

I started working there back in the early ‘80s with a guy called Reg Mifflin. Reg moved on and we took on the lease ourselves and took on the legendary Croc-A-Dog lager. At the time, with Perth licensing laws, we were only allowed to sell cider. We were allowed to sell Swan Special Light, and if you wanted a Mexican Croc-A-Dog you’d put tequila in it. If you’d wanted a Russian Croc-A-Dog, you’d put vodka in it. If it was a Greek one, it was ouzo, etc, etc.  So we ran the gamut of the world by putting a shot of alcohol into a Swan Special Light (laughs). 

You’ve picked up various bits of knowledge and experience over the years haven’t you?

Yes (laughs). And obviously places like the Wizbah and the Old Melbourne is where we got to know a lot of Perth bands. The Kryptonics and that crew. We used to bring over the Hoodoo Gurus, The Scientists and a lot of those were West Australian raised people. Rodney Radalj, who was in The Johnnys as well. There was the Beasts Of Bourbon, who would have had Tony Pola and Brian Hooper in it at the time. They all played at those haunts as well as the Shenton Park Hotel, which was another big haunt back in those days.

Your favourite Perth bands over the years…

We had a great passion for The Bamboos, who were an absolutely fantastic band. I remember putting them on an Eastern States tour and the drummer’s girlfriend had a premonition that he was falling to the ground from an aeroplane so he hightailed it and left them stranded. There were bands like The Jackals and The Love Pump. Anything that Kim Salmon and Boris Sudjovic used to do, whether it was The Dubrovniks or The Scientists, etc.

Most memorable acts you’ve brought to town?

One of my personal favourites would have to be The Ramones. I never thought that I’d get to touch a Ramone (laughs). That was pretty fantastic. I can remember doing New Order at Canterbury Court on their Blue Monday tour when they basically wouldn’t play Blue Monday, so that was pretty amusing. We had REM at the Concert Hall and the PA had half the speakers blow up an catch fire. So we had to cancel that night and they played the next. I remember old Michael Chugg not being too happy that day. I never thought I’d get to see Iggy Pop and we put him on as the first ever live show at Challenge Stadium. Faith No More at the Charles Hotel was a pretty rocky gig.

You handled The Birthday Party and early Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds tours as well?

Yes, all of those. I remember doing The Birthday Party at the Red Parrot and one of them had missed the plane and other certain misdemeanours were on and lucky they were playing in a nightclub because they were allowed to go on a couple hours late. If it was a pub it would have been all over  (laughs). That would have been into the early-mid ‘80s.

Is it easier or harder to put a, shall we say, ‘party’ on in Perth these days?

A party in Perth? I don’t know how to party (laughs).

What about putting on gigs? It was more conservative back then but things were also looser…

It depends on what kind of gig you’re talking about. I remember putting on the first Big Day Out (1993) I walked in and said, ‘I wanna do this’, they went, yeah fine’. I said, ‘there’s my $20,000, see you later’. Then I went out and thought, ‘oh shit. There’s no punter barrier in Perth!’ I said to a guy, ‘if I give you the money now, can you build a punter barrier?’

In the pub scenario, back in those days, there were so many more places to play. I’d have, say, Paul Kelly come into town, and they’d do Friday/Saturday/Sunday then Monday at the legendary Herdsman Hotel. Then they’d do Wednesday/Thursday/ Friday/Saturday/Sunday again. I used to do that with Painters & Dockers, The Johnnys, Weddings Parties Anything and they’d be playing eight or nine shows over the two-week   period. Plus a lot of times – which was really good for music at the time – there was the regulation show at Curtin Uni or UWA lunchtimes in the Guild Halls.  At one stage we had bands playing at schools. So putting on gigs at that time was a lot easier, there was such a plethora of venues. Putting on a festival then was easier because no one knew what the hell was going on; we just kind of invented it from there.

How has the local industry changed during your time in it?

It’s like anything, it tends to go in cycles. When I started in the ‘80s there’s was always a big artistic movement toward music that came out of Perth. Like I mentioned, there were members of The Johnnys, Hoodoo Gurus and The Scientists who then played in the Beasts Of Bourbon, etc. So for that level of – for want of a better word – alternative stuff,  a lot of that was actually happening in Perth. Then on the other hand there was the Farriss Brothers who went on to become INXS. So there was always stuff bubbling, there was stuff happening in Perth.  In a lot of cases, isolation breeds creativity. The only difference now, probably since Jebediah and John Butler, you can actually stay in Perth. And live in Perth. In the old days you actually had to get out, go to the Eastern States and do it from there. With the advent of the technological era it doesn’t matter where you are – you don’t have to go to the industry; the industry goes to you.

There’s not that tyranny of distance that used to enclose Perth. And over the time Perth bats way out of its league on the national scene, in terms of the amount of acts that have actually taken over. Especially in the last 10 years at the top level of the Australian music scene.

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