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RED JEZEBEL Still a revelation

Red Jezebel’s debut album Revelations lived up to its title as one of the best West Australian albums of the early noughties. This Sunday, November 19 at Perth Concert Hall marks a special occasion in more ways than one when Red Jez perform it in full as part of RTRFM’s 40th birthday celebrations, The Big 40. HARVEY RAE caught up with frontman Paul “Woody” Wood to look back on the land that time forgot.

From their first appearance in 1997 Red Jezebel always felt like a revelation. For some (like me) the amount of time it took them to release their debut album was a source of frustration. But it was worth the wait when it finally arrived in 2004. From moments of Arcade Fire-like swagger on opener You’re Making Me Nervous to sounds rooted more deeply in their time and place (Wide Open Spaces rings of Placebo’s early noughties brand of post punk if you listen closely enough), Revelations was celebrated at the time and is loved just as well today. Do you believe me yet?

Revelations was your debut album in 2004 following four EPs from 1997 to 2004, why do you think it took so long for Red Jez to make an album?

Well interestingly enough, Revelations was our initial attempt at a Coup de Grace (third Red Jez album, 2015). We weren’t planning on continuing any further when we started tracking, so we took it as an opportunity to try everything we’d always wanted to all at once. It was a gifted occasion where we gave ourselves unbridled access to so many tools and opened up every door we could think of to make something extraordinary, a swansong release. It was an extremely selfish endeavour on our part because we had a hell of a lot of ideas rattling around, so the two and a half years it took to make kinda flew by for us. That process pretty much set the bar for everything we did going forward.

It’s been 13 years since the release, what made the band decide to play the album for RTR’s Big 40? That can’t have been an easy decision…

We were asked to do something special to mark the occasion and this sort of felt like the obvious choice to make. It’s been a hell of a while since we’ve played most of these songs in front of a crowd, but after a few emails back and forth we all got pretty amped on the idea.

I think it’s my favourite Red Jez album – is it your favourite in retrospect, or if not, what is?

Yeah and nah. I enjoyed making it and enjoy listening to it still but the same goes for the other two. They’ve all got their little charms for me. Lyrically, it’s up there for me as my better efforts, although there’s still a few things I cringe at. But that goes with all of them. I can’t imagine anyone ever being 100% sold on their works.

It was also a time of change for the band, your last release with Chris Hayes and your first working with Dave “Parko” Parkin who would take his place. Was that happening while the record was being made, or was that after?

That took place afterward.  It was sad to lose Hayes because it kinda spelled the end for Red Jez at the time. But I think that with Parko’s keenness to step in, and how the album was generally received, they were the catalysts to continue on and see what more we could do.

I really enjoyed listening to the record again when I put it on the other day – tracks like Heart In the Sun, Demons, New Revelations, Wide Open Spaces… they took me back. For you looking back, what are the songs from the album that have stuck in the Red Jez live set and what are you favourites to go back and listen to?

Demons and New Revelations are personal faves for me. Demons was the first song I tracked with Parko, which led to the birth of the album. I didn’t actually feel like we were ever going to get around to making an album at that time and tried to see what I could do off my own back. And after showing it to the guys, I think they felt it was time we tried something different to what we’d always pegged ourselves into. So that song to me will always be remembered as a cathartic exercise in letting things go.

Are there some tracks that you haven’t played live in eons that the band has had to really work at ahead of the live show this Sunday – songs that maybe this could be the only time people will get to hear them live?

Angels. We’ve never played Angels, ever. There’s a couple I’m sure we’ve only played a handful of times over the past 13 years as well, but surprisingly, muscle memory has been very kind to us in the lead up to this. Rehearsals have been surprisingly coherent and relaxed. It’s not as daunting a task as I’d feared on the initial proposal.

Glancing at the album credits you seemed to have a close relationship with The Hampdens at the time and Susannah Legge’s voice in particular is all over the album, was that just because you were both working with Dave at the time?

Pretty much – right place/right time and all that. Both Hampdens and Red Jez spent a fair amount of time together around then as well. I think ideas bounced around and influences rubbed off on each without even noticing. It was also a kind of free-for-all in making Revelations. If you happened to be at the studio at the time, even just to pop in and say hi, you would have found yourself ushered in with a shaker in your hand or a mic shoved in your face for backing vocals or something. We weren’t precious about the process, only the outcome.

Finally, you released your third, pretty damn good album Coup de Grace in 2015, and Your Days Are Numbered has been a pretty big track for the band. Are you still writing and thinking about album #4 yet?

Maybe. You never know what could happen in the next four years…

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