Maverick music man Tex Perkins, along with accomplished songwriter Don Walker of Cold Chisel fame and multi-instrumentalist Charlie Owen of Beasts of Bourbon and The Cruel Sea, come together again after a 12 year hiatus between records. The aptly titled trio Tex, Don and Charlie perform nation wide, unveiling their latest album You Don’t Know Lonely released this Friday, June 30. Performing at Badlands on September 20 and 21, KYRA SHENNAN chats with Aussie rock legend Tex Perkins.
You’re pretty much rock and roll royalty in Australia so I figure your a good person to ask…
Thank you very much I think… sorry I cut you off, was there more?
Yes, I wasn’t just giving you a compliment…
Yes, I am royalty…
I believe so…
Its more a democracy really, the system we have in place in rock and roll in Australia. You have your turn, then you’re shuffled on, everyone gets their go, even (John) Farnham has to move on.
Well he’s been saying that for years, hasn’t he?
He’s rock royalty, he’s the king. He keeps coming back.
Thats right. Alright, in your opinion, is rock and roll dead?
Um, rock and roll as a commercial entity… it may not be at the peak in the industry, its not the cash cow it once was. I think you’ll find all the cash cows have been milked. But pop music and hip hop seem to be the larger, still milk-able cash cows. Rock and roll as an idea, rock and roll as a feeling, as a primal response, I don’t think it can die unless humans die. It’ll die with humans.
My kids, I have a three year old son , when I put on basic riff-based rock and roll, he instinctively spreads his legs and moves his body in a certain way and he doesn’t really have any frame of reference for rock and roll behaviour, pure instinct. I have faith in the primal eternality, is that a word, the eternal, primal… (laughs) …the continuing existence of primal instinct within rock and roll (puts on a dramatic tone) to last forever.
Can you cut that up into some kind of sense?
I can certainly try…
So did I answer your question – is rock and roll dead?
Yeah, and I’m glad you answered in that way because I tend to agree it’s not so much about the music as such, its definitely something that’s embedded..
Well it is the music but its not… I mean rock and roll isn’t the commercial juggernaut that it was. Rock and roll set this all up, rock and roll set up the pop industry and the hip hop industry, its all based on the rock and roll industry that began in the ’50’s and grew through the ’60’s and 70’s… its all rock and roll really.
Its always evolving…
It’s all a form of rock and roll really, if you really want to take it to another perspective. Anyway, we should move on.
Sure. So you’ve collaborated with some incredible musicians, but if you could choose a super band using anybody other than the people you’ve already collaborated with, who would be in your super band?
Hhmmmm. EOWW. Oh. Well. Hmm. Goodness. Um hmmm cgggrr. Are we talking on a practical, available level?
So I can have people from history?
If you wish, it’s your super band.
I don’t know its a tough one, if there’s no limits… if I’ve got to pick five members or can I just say everyone in my record collection?
Let’s go with five.. can we go with five?
Ok. Alright. Hmm. Ok. Leonard Cohen on guitar, Leonard is a ridiculously under-rated guitar player. In his early songs, I mean no one played guitar like that, it’s absolutely unique and beautiful, and nobody really talks about it. There’s a soundtrack to a film – McCabe & Mrs. Miller that came out in the early 70’s, not long after Leonard’s first record I think, a lot of instrumental versions of songs from that era, that are beautiful. Paul McCartney on drums. Drums, yes thats right, drums. You’ve gotta have musicians that can rotate as well and Paul McCartney is one of the best bass players in music, that I’ve ever heard, totally unique, but he’s a great drummer as well. He’s done various albums where he’s played every instrument.
The Beatles were asked, during their hey day, when they were the biggest band in the world, “Is Ringo the best drummer in the world?” And John said, “He’s not even the best drummer in The Beatles.”
I’ve heard that, I did actually think he was referring to himself.
I’ve never heard of Lennon playing drums. Who else would I have. Hmmm… how about, can we just have Leonard Cohen on guitar, Paul McCartney on drums and Shane Walsh on bass. Shane Walsh used to play with Tex, Don and Charlie, he passed away about half a dozen years ago, I thought I’d use this exercise to bring Shane back to life.
Yeah nice, bring him back. So I watched an interview, from a few years back I think, where you mentioned the riders being pretty shitty these days, but if that weren’t the case…
Oh like the drinks riders, please expand on what I said!
Yeah, the interviewer was asking what you didn’t like about the music industry these days and you said the riders are crap, because they only give you a couple of drinks vouchers and a burger voucher or something.
I think that was specific to a particular festival. Don’t you worry missy, we still get whatever we want. Some festivals are outrageous, they just give you a bunch of meal tickets and drink tickets and you’ve got to go get them yourself.
How dare they!
It’s undignified to wait in the line to get some morsel, some ration. Like some fucking convicts waiting on gruel.
Don’t they know who you are?
And half a cup of water.
Shocking. I guess they’re on a budget these days.
Well, The Beasts of Bourbon were kind of ridiculous with our riders, there were various larger pubs we would play at, we would ask for a ridiculously large rider and they would give it to us but also it was fine because the pubs had some of the biggest drinkers so they could afford to. But those days are over. Just a whole bunch of water. A whole bunch of water and some cheese and crackers. And I bring my own tea specifically for my throat.
What kind of tea?
It’s a Chinese tea, its called Pang Da Hai. A mysterious Chinese seed pod that you boil up and it turns into a tea.
So anyway, there’s not much fun being on a record label anymore, they don’t splash the money around. Cab charges, when they stopped giving out cab charges you knew the music industry was kind of collapsing. In the old days we got a cab charge and they were a precious item that made the ride that much smoother. But nobody splashes money around anymore.
Thats a shame. You’ve done a lot of great song covers, what contemporary pop song would you cover?
You’ve got me there. Hmm I don’t know. Where do we cut off being contemporary?
Hmmm, maybe 20 years?
20 years wow, thats a lot of scope, thank you. Ok oh well, prrggr. Um. Um. Um. Um . Um. Um. Um. Erm, Happy by Pharrell.
Not happy with that one? Want me to go again?
No, I’m surprised. I’m surprised but I like it…
Well I try to be surprising.
One important question, could you give us a quick overview of your latest album You Don’t Know Lonely.
Well its another Tex, Don, Charlie album. We’ve made three in the last 23 years, we make one every 12 years and, if anyone knows my work and Dons work and Charles work separately, then that probably won’t prepare you for what we do together!
Cool so something different then…
It has a unique result when we come together. Hard to define Tex, Don, Charlie’s music, especially the songs that Don writes, even though they might be delivered with traditional instruments. Instruments that you might hear in country music – slide guitars, pedal steels and things like that. It’s not country, I guess it’s not blues. Don’s songs are interestingly elusive in their categorising. I think I’m a little more traditional and conventional in the songs that I present, they’re a little more folk orientated or country. But Tex, Don and Charlie… what is it!? And that’s all I can say.
Tell me about this Badlands place…
Have you seen the film From Dusk Till Dawn? It’s about vampires, it kinda reminds me of the bar in that almost. It’s a night club bar, its quite dingy and dark, its pretty cool
How many people do you think it can fit in?
Oh maybe 400, 500.
I enjoyed playing in the new Fly By Night club in Freo that’s set in the theatre now.