THE HARD-ONS Yes I Am

FeaturedTHE HARD-ONS Yes I Am

The Hard-Ons at the Link and Pin Cafe,  Woy Woy, Dec 10 2021. Pic by Mark Fraser

If there’s one consistent reaction to the live shows that The Hard-Ons have been performing in the last year with new frontman, Tim Rogers, it’s that the band have been on fire.  

“Man, for me personally, it’s been amazing,” says guitarist, Peter ‘Blackie’ Black. “To me, it finally feels like we’re a four-piece. All four of us are really gleeful when we get up onstage. It’s a magical unit. It really unreal together, we really connect.”

It’s now embedded in Australian music history that Rogers joined The Hard-Ons in early 2021 to record the excellent I’m Sorry Sir, That Riff’s Been Taken album, following the departure of Keish de Silva, due to a combination of issues pertaining to his personal life and perhaps not sharing the same fire as his ex-bandmates.  

“Look, it is difficult to talk about,” ponders Blackie. “And personally, I don’t want to speak on anyone else’s behalf as well. People grow up together and then nearly 40 years later, they feel very differently about certain things. I think Keish thought he liked being back in a band but he kind of forgot that it isn’t just rocking out, there’s actually a ton of fucking work that’s gotta go into being in a band. And I don’t think he was as enthused as we were.

“So it kind of felt like he was really, not ho-hum… but it was like, ‘ah, that’s a drag’. It’s like, ‘yeah, but man, you gotta work it’ – because you know, The Hard-Ons are a band that has never sat still. We’ve always wanted to write better songs, be better players, be better everything. It’s what we do. We love this shit to death. I think as soon as you stop getting better, as soon as you start resting, then you become one of those bands that starts start to suck, you know?

“And with this line-up, all four are really, really into it. When we bring a new song in, all of us jump on top of it. We give it everything and that definitely carries over when we play live. It really gels.”

In a previous interview, Rogers told this writer that for the first couple of shows with The Hard-Ons he’d pre-planned moments on stage as he was fronting the band onstage for the first time and doing so without a trusty guitar around his neck. Once the first show (in December 2021 at the Link & Pin Café in Woy Woy) kicked in however, all ‘pre-plans’ went out the door and simply being in the energy of the moment was everything.  

The Hard-Ons. Pic: Michelle Young

“I guess everyone performs differently and everyone has different ways of getting themselves ready,” Blackie considers. “To me, I never ‘perform’ you know? I never know what’s gonna happen. When I get up on stage and switch the amp on and we’re getting enough drums out of the monitors that sort of tells me how the night is gonna be. I don’t like thinking about it; I just love that first rush that you get.

“It’s not just the tunes and playing with these guys, it’s also that awesome excitement of the volume that you get to produce. Like, I can turn right up now and that is really enjoyable. That’s the physical aspect of the volume. And then obviously, there’s also the killer energy that you get from people who have come to see you and they want to loosen up as well so they’re yelling back at you and we’re yelling back at them. And it’s like this constant to-and-fro exchange of energy and that’s kind of how, for me, a show goes.

“But I know what Tim meant, you know? Like he was really intimidated by it. ‘What are your fans gonna think of me?’ And we’re like, ‘man, we think the world of you, and we know how strong this is. It’s like, don’t worry about it. Let’s just go out there and do it’. That’s exactly how it went – he got offstage and went, ‘yep, that was something else!’.”

Upon joining The Hard-Ons, Rogers presented the band with a wishlist of 70 songs he was keen to perform. It turns out his choice of gems was right up their alley.   

“Man, that’s what I really liked,” Blackie says. “I reckon – especially that album Peel Me Like An Egg – we’ve had so much bad luck with some of our last few records. In terms of Peel Me Like An Egg, which I was stupidly proud of, but then it fell on the back of our 30-something-or-other anniversary. So it’s like, ‘I don’t want to do that shit. I want to promote our new record’. And it’s like, well, ‘it’s kind of rude not to acknowledge the fact that you’ve been around for this long’. So I say, ‘oh alright’.

“In a lot of ways, a lot of the stuff that Tim digs are the records that kind of got forgotten. So picking up these songs was like, ‘shit yeah! We played this maybe twice’. So getting to play them again, has been a buzz.

“You know, whatever’s new is the most exciting thing and you’re proud and want to show it off and all that. But I’m not a dick. Man, if I went to see Slayer and they didn’t play Reign In Blood I’d be pretty pissed off. So of course we’re gonna play old songs as well, but the thing that sometimes people have to understand is, you might still dig a song that we might be a little bit bored with at the moment. If we attempted to play it, and we’re not into it, it probably won’t be a stellar performance. So you’ve got to sort of balance it. So we rotate old songs and you know, you play something for a while and go, ‘well that was fun, but let’s give it a rest. Let’s pick out some more’.

“So it’s been pretty fun having Tim and Murray as well, when he joined, he was like, `Man, I’d love to try this and that and that’. So… mix it up, make a call.”

While a new 7-inch single and video clip for Needles And Pins (backed with a non-album track, Spider Tree) has been released just this week, Blackie has been working on demos for the next Hard-Ons album which is set to be recorded at a studio inside MONA in Hobart in December. And, according to Rogers, the guitarist/songwriter already has his ears and eyes focussed on the one after that.

“People think it’s strange, but it’s actually not. It sounds like a lot, but I really like writing. So that’s all I do all day long. I remember reading an interview with Pete Shelley not that long ago. And he goes, ‘I probably write I don’t know, maybe 200 songs a year, but it doesn’t mean that they’re 200 good ones it means that of 200 I might get 30 that will go on a record’.

“So it’s not so much so I’m planning the next record. I am seeing what this record is shaping up to be like and might think, ‘I love that song, but there’s too many songs already with the same vibe. So put it aside for the next one’, or maybe do it solo. Whenever I’m blessed enough to get an idea, I just fool around with it and do a demo and wherever it goes, it goes.

“So yes, I am, but I always do that. I can’t help myself, it’s fun!”

THE-HARD ONS WA TOUR DATES

Thu Aug 4 – The Prince, Bunbury (Leeches + Ocean Drive) –TIX
Fri Aug 5 – Amplifier. Perth + Seawitch + Leeches – TIX
Sat Aug 6 – Indian Ocean Hotel, Scarborough + Seawitch + The Secret Buttons – TIX
Sun Aug 7 – Mojo’s, Fremantle + Rinehearts + The Shakeys –TIX

THAT’S ETTA

THAT’S ETTA

An accomplished jazz/opera/contemporary vocalist with a unique talent for song interpretation Etta D’Elia has made an indelible impression in Perth in the decade since she moved here from her native Italy. 

And with a new fringe show in the works, this spirited performer and teacher is looking to expand on all that she has done before. It’s taken hard work but in so many ways it’s about destiny.  

From an early age, it seemed that Etta was naturally theatrical, so much so that by the age of five visiting relatives would pay her money to tell jokes and stories. It wasn’t all for laughs, however, the power of music was also taking hold.

“I always wanted to sing and perform,” Etta states. “My mother says that since I was basically three or four, I wasn’t really walking, I was dancing and performing all around the rooms in the house and out in the street. My games were always to create shows to perform for an audience. I was pretending to be Liza Minnelli singing into a duster. So really, it’s always been in my blood.

“My grandfather, my very beloved Nonno, was an opera lover and he used to play piano for me. It has always been basically clear to me since I was a baby that I would become a musician and a singer and a performer in general.”

By the age of six, Etta was taking piano lessons, a dedication to craft that was complemented by her enrolment at The Conservatorio to learn classical singing followed by a Master’s Degree in Music Education. Her academic focus had been strictly classical but encouraged by a lecturer to branch out musically she discovered a love for jazz and was soon performing with Italian pianist Gianni Lenoci and his jazz quartet, featuring the French double-bass player, Joelle Leandre.

It was the first page of a musical love letter. A truer calling.      

“I felt that that was really my dimension because I felt free, really free to express myself,” Etta explains. “I’m not the person that writes music, but I love the freedom of improvising and scatting. That’s my creativity.”

Even so, at 23 Etta won first prize in an international opera contest, so work and further success opened up in that environment. But, she says, “still there was something missing.”

In 2012 Etta moved to Perth, Western Australia. It was a bold step and a big change.

“The impact that living in another country has on an artist is huge,” she says. It’s a huge transformation that can happen.

In Perth, there is not a huge demand for opera singers. I got more involved with the language, with the expression, and I felt a stronger connection with English and everything that is related to English expression.

“So, I want to go back there, and I decided to start slowly putting some more jazz songs in my act.”

Etta worked for several years with popular accordionist Nikki D’Agostino as a duo called Prima Donna. “It was a bit of classical music and a bit of jazz and a bit of pop all coming together,” she says. “We did a lot of work together. It was all based on Italian music and Italian humour.”

In 2021 Etta made a conscious decision to focus on jazz, adopting her grandmother’s nickname with a nod to Etta James. “It’s less aristocratic than Antonietta D’Elia and more direct,” she notes. “It’s more who I am now. It’s my jazz identity.”

She has pursued jazz performances all around WA as a guest vocalist and as the featured performer in duos, trios and quartets at venues such as Perth Concert Hall, The Crown, Pan Pacific, Ritz Carlton, Duke Of George, The Volstead Lounge, Velour Lounge, Kalamunda Jazz Club and more.

What jazz also offers for Etta is a sense of fun. The six-year-old jokester is still very much present, and even in her opera days – specialising in Mozart and Puccini – her voice and demeanour saw her cast in the more comedic roles.

“I would never be the big romantic, dramatic character,” she recalls. “I would always be the one that makes people laugh. So I decided to bring all that experience and knowledge in theatre into my shows, and that’s why they’re probably in between a jazz singer and a comedian, a stand-up comedy person. I always make a lot of jokes and try to interest people. That’s the other big component of it, the fun.”

With that in mind, Etta is working towards her Fringe Show to be staged in early 2023, a humorous melange of Italian music and jazz.

“There will be all the popular Italian songs,” she says, “love songs that belong to our culture that are not necessarily very popular here in Australia, but still very representative of our culture and our customs. This is a show where I explain a lot of curiosities and things about Italian culture through the songs.”

Going forth, Etta feels stronger than ever as a performer by acknowledging her past experiences and taking them with her as she evolves constantly as an artist. 

“I believe that making a stylistic choice when you are an artist reflects who you really are, and I believe that I’ve been through different phases of my life because I was discovering myself,” she says.

“I’ve reached this point where I’m happy to call myself a jazz singer and this is the point in my life in which I understand who I am. I like this dimension and I want to be here because I want to be free to use everything that I’ve got from my past to create something new.”

www.antonietta.com.au

www.facebook.com/e.delia.vocalist

ROCK’N’STROLL

ROCK’N’STROLL

RTRFM FREMANTLE WINTER MUSIC FESTIVAL

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Nevermind the water, there’s something in the coldening air that makes a melodic stomp around Fremantle on a musical evening out such a fine thing indeed.

A few weeks back the Harbour Road Porch Fest eased South Freo into the winter of our content and now it was North Fremantle’s shot as RTRFM strolled back into The Shire once again with its annual Winter Music Festival across the hallowed stages of Mojo’s, the Swan Lounge, Swan Basement, Port Beach Brewery and the footpaths betwixt and between.

There’d been a wee dust-up out the front of Port Beach Brewery, but rest assured it was a gaggle of day-drinkers raining fists like cats and dogs and not any of the cockle-warming RTR massive, who were already imbibing to Mal De Mer’s laconic takes/tales of suburban lives interestingly powered through an indie-funk propulsion and the words of vocalist/keyboardist Saskia Fleming, whose voice seems somewhere between Missy Higgins and Stella Donnelly but whose intent and tone is all its own.

‘Maybe not today but one day’ Fleming pondered in a poignant moment during the alluring Pray To You. Perhaps that one day is July 8 when Mal De Mer launch their second EP, Sanguine. Catch the video for the first single from it, Mirage, here.

On the outside stage (pictured above) the genre-diverse sounds of Romeo Walker were filling the night air, which was gratifyingly wind and rain free. Benjamin Witt’s music on the other hand, carries many elements both earthly and ethereal and with members of Grievous Bodily Calm serving as his backing band, they sure do make a lot of intricate stuff look effortless. The set referenced earlier solo moments such as the delicate-to-dangerous sounds of 2016’s Future Reset, but mainly focussed on songs from recently released album, The Shape Up. As such Transformer and Ketchup conveyed menacing film noir brushstrokes, whilst Everlasting caresses you all feathery like a love song for the ages.


Inside the Railway Hotel Bar Hector Morlet and band – a pleasing presentation of hairstyles and hats – were rolling out his blend of sophisticated yet fun lo-fi pop, with the most exquisite falsetto ever heard at 9.50pm on a Saturday night. “They’re more a 12 o’clock/1am band,” someone uttered between songs. You take it when you can get it, would be my thinking. Hector Morlet’s presenting a Variety Night at Mojo’s on Tuesdays in July/August. Go get some!

Ra Ra Viper give off an impression that they’re mainly just a bunch of mates having a laugh, but it’s more likely a shared confidence that comes from their experience with previous bands (Pissedcolas et al) and the clear fact that they simply love playing and performing. Clearly it’s infectious, as their recently sold-out show at Freo.Social attests.

A version of Alt-J’s Breezeblocks (‘Please don’t go, I love you so’) was sweet fun, even if vocalist Oliver Bolt decided to stop the song to announce to everyone that he couldn’t sing the high part. The highlights came from their own material in any case, current single, Big Surrender, is modern indie rock at its most charming. Ra Ra Viper are taking their good times on an East Coast tour at the end of the month. What could possibly go wrong?

Over at the Swan Lounge it was feeling like a cool night out somewhere in Melbourne. WAM Song Of The Year nominee Anna Schneider’s solo set was just sublimey. Her lilting confessional songs have an alluring, caressive nature to them and are well worth diving into. Down in the Swan Basement it couldn’t have been more different, with Electric State romancing the rock with a balls-out set that was met with literal screams of delight and a good deal of folk singing along word-for-word as frontman Rob Viney prowled the front of the stage locking eyes with almost every individual in attendance. Let’s hear it for hard rock showbusiness.

Over at Mojo’s Otiuh were bringing this thing to a salubrious close.  Touting themselves as ‘men of leisure and your favourite rappers you haven’t heard of yet’, Cesare Papa (wearing the biggest safety glasses you’ve ever seen) and Jahmeil Baker have been RTRFM favourites for a while now, and they were the perfect choice to end proceedings. The dancefloor was full, the venue was vibing and with guest appearances by the likes of Downsyde’s Optamus and Super Ego’s Nelson Mondlane, this block party was on for young and old… well, not that old.

This was but a portion of the line-up, what we happened to catch on our little rock’n’stroll. It was the warmest cold winter night you’d like to imagine.

BLACK AIR – A Sapper’s Song

FeaturedBLACK AIR – A Sapper’s Song

It’s a theme that we all too commonly see in movies – the returned solider, traumatised by what they’ve seen (and done) whilst at war, struggling to come to terms with adapting to being back at home, or even just civilisation in general.

It’s made some Hollywood studios a lot of money, but the reality of the problem is more stark and real than any film. In Australia returned servicemembers from tours of Afghanistan suffer in plain sight from PTSD, often turning to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of the aftermath, which while occasionally diluted, never goes away.

“It’s something that needs to be talked about,” says lyricist Jon Roberts, who has penned A Sapper’s Song, about the plight of returned soldiers.

“It’s not in the news cycle, Afghanistan is over and nobody’s talking about it but the guys who’ve come back and the people left behind are… fucked.”

Roberts wrote the lyrics to A Sapper’s Song following conversations with a young workmate. “I was on a plant shutdown and shared off-site accommodation with the crew tearing the kit down. Good bunch so we’d have a few beers most nights. I’ve got 20 years on the eldest and am telling tales of a misspent youth in South East Asia. One’s about an ex-medic in the US 101st Airborne who I met in Burma. First action in Vietnam he’s in a village after it had been “pacified” patching up a local woman when his sergeant comes up, puts a gun in her face and shoots her head off. He freaks but the sergeant shouts him down and says they’re all killers blah blah…The medic was seriously wounded in one of the Hill battles. I met him not long after Saigon fell and he seemed alright but I questioned how anyone could live with that.

“Josh, the young bloke, had his own story. He’d started drinking and taking whatever in his early teens but had always just managed to keep it together and keep working. At the end of 2019 it caught up and he was unravelling fast but, by some miracle, his folks got him into rehab.”  

The facility was in NSW and was counselling about a dozen people, a number of whom were active servicemen who had done multiple tours in Afghanistan. Josh realised very quickly that they were all suffering PTSD.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has been described as a normal response to a completely abnormal situation. A 2019 report co-authored by Orygen and Phoenix Australia states that:

‘… while young men and women make up only a quarter of full-time serving personnel in the ADF, they have the highest rate of mental ill-health among their colleagues, including conditions such as panic attacks, alcohol-use disorders and depression.
 
‘Ex-serving male personnel aged 18–24 have a suicide rate twice as high as other Australian men of the same age’.

The military recognise this and have psychologists in the field for debriefing and free phones so soldiers can call home at any time. But, as Roberts says, “It’s hard because it’s their job. Soldiers see and sometimes do things in war that they don’t want to think about so they’re not going talk about them. In the field there are mates to lean on but home can be very alone.”

Accommodation at the facility was in shared rooms and Josh ended up with The Sapper. In group counselling Josh heard his story, told in the song, and saw him fighting with the memories early most mornings.

‘..the scene re-runs every night

And I wake in fright

It’s stained

On my brain’

– A Sapper’s Song

Halfway through his treatment, Josh was rushed to hospital with a twisted bowel. It was the week the first Australian cases of Covid-19 were reported and having been in a public hospital he wasn’t allowed to return to the safe haven of the rehab facility.

That was the last he saw of The Sapper. Roberts says, “The shutdown was in early 2020 and Josh was in great nick when I met him. He said that hearing their stories and seeing the shit the Afghan vets went through changed his life. He’s a coiled spring so I hope he is still straight. And I hope The Sapper and his mates are out of the army and doing okay. I don’t think there’s anywhere else to go for a lot of these guys.”

Roberts has written lyrics and occasionally complete songs for decades. “Never done much with them, although the Balding Men video with Dick Haynes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvuVGcKMzd0) nearly got us a contract and the RooBeeDooAh album of kid songs I wrote with Brett Townsend actually did okay commercially. Still great little songs (type in RooBeeDooAh on YouTube) – sort of an antidote for the Wiggles.

“The disastrous abandonment of Afghanistan in mid-2021 bought back the sapper’s story. Apart from the bit about locking up refugees at the end of the last verse, it’s the sapper’s story as Josh told it. I wanted to say something about treatment of refugees because this government keeping people whose “crime” was to seek a better life isolated and muzzled for years brings great shame on this country.

I’m blessed with a family band. Step-son Sam Air is an incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist who’s co-written, arranged and played on just about everything I’ve done for the last 20 years. His brother Ben has a huge voice and has provided lead vocals on most of the songs”    

Ben Air was teaching in the Pilbara so Roberts asked Pete Black, the son of one of his oldest friends, to join the project.

“Pete’s got a great voice for dark songs. He was really helpful with the lyrics, as was my daughter who spent 15 years in the air force. Pete also added a line of music to Sam’s tune and it worked well.”

The name of the band, Black Air, doesn’t require too much of a stretch of the imagination.

“We wrote the song round the table at home and it appears that the chorus is really catchy because pretty soon half the street was singing it.”

 ‘What You See is what you get

Another burned-out Afghan vet

With nothing left but regret

What you seen is what you get’

– A Sapper’s Song

Hard hitting lyrics and a catchy tune make this a song worth listening to.

As such, A Sappers Song by Black Air is now available on Spotify and most other streaming services.

STARDUST MEMORIES

STARDUST MEMORIES

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Upon the 40th anniversary of David Bowie’s ground-breaking fifth album, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, co-producer Ken Scott has no problem describing where Bowie was in the popular scheme of things when they went in to record it in late 1971.

“Nowhere,” he says, bluntly. “He’d had success with what at the time was considered a novelty record, which was Space Oddity (1969). He was almost more known for (widely panned 1967 single) The Laughing Gnome than he was for anything else. He was really nowhere, but he knew what he wanted to do.”

Scott had engineered Bowie’s 1969 self-titled and 1970 The Man Who Sold The World albums with producer Tony Visconti, before taking the production duties for Bowie’s 1971 LP, Hunky Dory. While well regarded, the iconic singer had yet to really break through, though Scott has it that Bowie wasn’t too worried about being a nowhere man.

“No, he was very calm about it,” Scott recalls. “He was fine. I think he needed to see if he was going to sink or swim on his own terms, because he’d tried it not on his own terms and it hadn’t worked.

“I had come to realise, at least in my own mind, that one of the reasons he went to work me with rather than Tony Visconti, was that Tony, being a bass player and a member of the band, was so in control of what it was turning out like, musically. I don’t think those first two albums were really David’s albums. They were more Tony’s, and I think David wanted his own voice. He wanted to form his own direction.”

The album famously dances around the tale of Ziggy Stardust, a prophetic rock star in a world that has only five years left to exist. Conjecture has raged for years about the multiple characters Ziggy was allegedly based upon, fuelled by Bowie’s enigmatic musings on the topic. One thing is certain, it seems; Bowie didn’t sit around conceptualising it in the studio.

“It was much looser than that,” Scott says. “It was never discussed upfront; the only comment that was made between Hunky Dory and Ziggy was David saying, ‘I don’t think you’re gonna like the next album because it’s more rock’n’roll’. He was proved completely incorrect because I did love it.

“One of the interesting things, that must have had an effect on all of us in the studio and our relationship, was that Ziggy was done so soon after Hunky Dory. Normally there’s a six-month span where you all go off and do different things and you come back and almost start your relationship afresh. Whereas because Ziggy was done a month after we completed Hunky Dory we didn’t have time to get involved in other things.

“So we came back in as the exactly same team and we were almost thinking along the same lines. We didn’t have to say anything to each other; we knew what we had to do because we’d already started that thing with Hunky Dory.”

Recorded at Trident Studios, London, The Rise And Fall… contains its fair share of Bowie classics, including Starman, Ziggy Stardust, Suffragette City and Rock’n’Roll Suicide. Arrangements were handled by Bowie and his longstanding ‘70s guitarist and foil, Mick Ronson.

“I don’t think David would have achieved the success he did without Ronno,” he says. “Ronno was exceedingly important. But for those early records, so were Woody (Mick Woodmansey, drums) and Trevor (Bolder, bass). It was that typical thing of the whole being more than the individual pieces.”

Ken Scott, David Bowie and Mick Ronson in the studio

Scott went on to co-produce Bowie’s 1973 albums, Aladdin Sane and Pin Ups, in a portfolio that includes work with The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Sir Elton John, Harry Nilsson, Lou Reed, Supertramp, Duran Duran and Devo. He keeps in touch via occasional email with Bowie, who once referred to Scott as his ‘own George Martin’.

“As a vocal performer I’ve never worked with anyone, since or before, who was as good,” Scott says. “95 per cent of David’s vocals would be recorded in the first take. It was amazing. He’s an exceedingly talented singer/songwriter/musician and a really nice guy.”

Since his last world tour for the Reality album in 2003-04, the 65 year-old Bowie (married to former Somalian model Iman, with whom he has an 11 year-old daughter, Alexandria) has rarely been seen in public and not released any new material, leading to constant speculation about the state of his health. Scott offers another take.

“I don’t know about all that,” he says. “But remember, when David Bowie would change character he would change it 100 per cent. I think he’s changed into the character of a doting father. And he’s done it 100 per cent.”

The remastered 40th Anniversary Editions (CD/vinyl/DVD) of The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars are out now. Ken Scott’s book, Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust, is available through Alfred Publishing.

BEN FRICHOT’S RENAISSANCE RESET

FeaturedBEN FRICHOT’S RENAISSANCE RESET

West Australian polymath Ben Frichot has, for several decades now, motioned his way around all points of pop cultural expression.

Combining elements of old and new, obscure and commercial, rock and/or roll, Frichot has excelled in artistic fields ranging from music (bands such as Storytime, The Hot Rod Sinners and Day Of The Dead), concert tour poster art (from Motorhead and Shihad to The Hives and Nick Cave), fashion design (Knucklehead Shipping Co.), web design (Knucklehead TV), commercial graphics (The Design Factory), a high-end sunglasses brand (Dillinger Optics) and a new avenue under the nom de plume, Lucky Amour.

The highly-respected Lyons Gallery represents Lucky Amour (AKA Frichot) amidst a stable of artists such as Banksy, Chet Ferry, E$cobar, Pino Ambrosino, Masayoshii Sukita and the estates of Roy Lichtenstein, Helmut Newton, Andy Warhol and others.

The ‘Lucky Amour’ moniker harks back to the ‘90s when Frichot was staging his first exhibitions. “I came up with that and was using it a long time ago,” he recalls. “I don’t remember why I was doing it at the time, but the gallery people really liked it and that’s what they’ve run with.”

Quite simply, the name fits. “It’s a whole fantasy world created by that art and it is all very much in a theme. 

“It’s funny when it gets to signing stuff and you have to sign another signature. I hadn’t invented a signature since I was nine years old,” he laughs.

‘Power To The People’ – Lucky Amour

At nine-years-old the young Frichot would come home from school and do his homework. There was no television allowed in the household by his father, so he would retire to the sanctuary of his bedroom where he began to create the kinds of fantasy worlds that he shares with the real world to this day.

“I was always drawing as a kid,” Frichot recalls. “From when I was little, I was always the cartoon kid… through primary school and high school I was always into that.

“In my room, I had a table with drawing stuff and a guitar. They were the two things I would spend every night doing – trying to learn how to play blues licks and creating comic book characters. I really liked comics, and I still do.”

The Cartoon Kid was making headway on guitar having taken a few lessons. That was okay and all, but it was an archetypal rock’n’roll scenario that got him totally hooked on six-strings.

“When I was 14, I met this girl who was 16 who played guitar and was all about it,” he says. “I thought she was the coolest chick in the world, so all of a sudden I was trying to play guitar and I was all about it.”

The dual/duel love-affair of art and music was set in stone. Frichot teamed up with some friends at school who had been jamming and soon evolved his presence from an outside guest to the creative driving force, as the (frankly average) singer was ushered aside and Frichot began to create original guitar riffs for them to jam on. It was instrumental music and an extension of the ‘theatre of the mind’ stuff that Frichot had already been creating for some years in his bedroom.

“Much like the drawing, I’d be figuring out shapes that I thought sounded good in my bedroom which became riffs,” he says, of the band that came to become known as Storytime. “Then I’d go and jam them with the guys.

“That’s what Storytime was, an endless collection of riffs.”

As the members left school and channelled their energies into the band and playing gigs, Storytime took off. They won the National Campus Band Grand Final in 1991, which set them touring nationally almost from the get-go. They played hundreds of shows and released several EPs and albums.

Storytime was a very physical band in every sense, as Frichot came to recall when they reformed for a few shows in 2016. John Lydon’s prescription for energy held true.

“I think that was partly an expression of a lot of anger,” Frichot concurs. “At the time I was young, and my father had died suddenly in a car accident when I was 17. I was basically homeless after that. Then I was basically a young parent with a barmaid that I met when I was working regionally, and life really spiralled. I felt as if I was in the driver’s seat, but I wasn’t, and I don’t think I was very aware, and I didn’t really have any good guidance around me.

“So I made a lot of mistakes, and I was more and more drawn to that anger stuff, musically. When I was younger, I thought that strength was like a rock. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised that strength is like water. But it’s been a long road to get to that and lots of bad things happened along the way.”

‘Robo Coin’ – Lucky Amour

Frichot’s ability to face emotional hardship and learn from it is admirable. He was particularly tested in 1999, when his former partner abducted their children.

“That was really hard,” he says, “but it was in so many ways a turning point because I got so angry and disturbed during that time, I had to begin to understand about letting go of things.”

By this time Frichot had become ensconced in the national touring scene, but his artistic work had not let up. In fact, it was quite the opposite, as he went from doing poster art for local gigs to becoming a go-to artist for national and international artists touring Australia. 

On breaks from touring, he would not only be working on poster designs for upcoming concert tours, but, as an artist without any formal training, create opportunities to be able to refine his approach and learn new techniques from the best artists he could find.

“When I was 18, I didn’t have a home. I had no money, and I was keen to try and figure any which way I could to learn whatever skills that I could so that I could do something with my life that I was interested in, as opposed to just being trapped. That has actually become a bit of a habit… trying to learn on the run.

“I would beg, borrow or steal any opportunity I got to learn from anyone.”

During these early years, Frichot shared a house with an illustrator who worked at Perth’s daily newspaper, The West Australian, where there were 20 full-time artists in the artroom.

“Every night someone had to be in the studio on call in case there was a late-breaking story that they needed an illustration for,” Frichot explains. “So there’d be a rotation with this crowd where every night someone would do the 7-12 shift.

“He had introduced me to these guys so that I could go in there at night while they were sitting around doing nothing and I could use one of the workstations. So I’d be there going, ‘how do you do this? How do you do that?’ I’d be there two or three nights a week, just trying to extract as much information out of all these different artists as I could. They gave me some technical points although I’m sure they kept much of their special sauce for themselves.”

Nonetheless, it opened things up for Frichot, as he was seeing first-hand how artists operated in what was, at that time, the best commercial illustration studio in WA.

“It was much better than what you could get taught in an institution,” he says, “these were the professionals. I did that for about a year, and I was really lucky to have gotten that exposure.”

‘Lucky Sailor’ – Lucky Amour

The learning on the run approach and the eternal thirst for popular culture continued from 1999-2001 when Frichot formed the rockabilly-inspired The Hot Rod Sinners with drummer Eddie Fury (Fireballs) and Andy Burnaway (The Convertibles). He revelled in yet another new and interesting cultural experience.

“I think a lot of my really interesting exposure to a lot of retro culture was from my time with Eddie and Andy,” he says. “They were absolute connoisseurs of everything vintage. They were those guys that had the old cars and the old clothes, and a million records and they knew every artist from this, that and the other. Andy used to collect all these postcards and stickers and this stuff that I thought was so cool. All of it, I just loved and got really interested in all of those things.”

It was through Fury that Frichot met acclaimed US graphic/poster artist Frank Kozik in 1998 at his San Francisco studio. It was to be another revelation.

“I was looking around at a lot of the work that was going on,” Frichot recalls. “I went out to Frank’s studio and it was incredible. His factory set-up was amazing and what he was doing with silk-screening posters was super cool. At the time I was 25 and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world and it fitted in with everything that I had dreamed about doing, because I was already doing a lot of poster stuff and I couldn’t get enough of opportunities of doing posters for bands. That was another bit of nitro in the engine – the inspiration of visiting him and seeing where it could go.”

Suitably inspired, Frichot returned home with the intention of stepping things up, in terms of both artistry and making a living from art. He started Frichot Design Factory…

“It’s just this never-ending series of steps from then on where you just keep trying to push and improve and push and improve.”

As the 2000s motored along, Design Factory was followed by Knucklehead TV, which (in name) begat a fashion label Knucklehead Shipping Co., which Frichot co-founded with several music-and-style-minded cohorts. Frichot’s music clients included the likes of Nick Cave, Foo Fighters, The Hives and more. Meanwhile he formed the surf-guitar-meets-desert-highway outfit Day Of The Dead, a band whose very existence echoes his own overall artistic development.

“Ironically, I feel I’ve gone full circle and I have an appreciation for the simple, pure idea that isn’t encumbered by all these contrived technical layers,” he says. “It’s like that old gag – good taste is knowing how to play the piano accordion but choosing not to.

“I think musically I’ve ended up going more in that way. Day Of The Dead is a good example of that, just good tones and really melodic stuff that was fun to play, as opposed to ‘look how tricky we are’.”

Frichot also maintained a steady line in commercial work for the likes of Brookfield Multiplex, SAS and Australian Army regiments, Barbagallo Motors, Homesmith and a multitude of liquor brands, venues, promoters and… hospitals.

“I’ve always loved art, illustration and graphic design,” Frichot says. “For me the lines between them are very blurred.”

The unleashed creativity of poster art (which feeds into the fantasy worlds of Lucky Amour) is where he truly saddles up.

“When you get a brief to do a poster for someone and you’ve got a lot of creative license over making some sort of a giant robot elephant or a space station in the shape of a skull or whatever it is, that represents to me not only a great opportunity to explore imagination and creativity, but there would always be a technical challenge in how I would achieve the outcome that I was after.

“And again, in not being trained I think there’s something of a clumsiness to my work. Which ends up giving it character in some ways, or perhaps childishness is a better word (laughs).”

Dillinger Optics

Then there’s the sunglasses. Looking for a creative outlet of his own during a long stretch of commercial work and having long been forced to wear glasses due to eye problems, Frichot brought the old-school, classic aesthetics he loved to eyewear. Enter Dillinger Optics – over-engineered, high-end and handmade in Japan by masters of the craft.    

“I thought, ‘what a great product!’. One size fits all; at least that’s what I thought at the time, but it isn’t true. ‘It’s small and you can ship to the world and how hard could it be?’

“Turns out it’s really hard. So that was a long and self-taught journey on how to design a pair of glasses, what they’re made of, what the difference is in terms of where they’re made. That was a long journey. To eventually get to the point of the product that we have now, I’m really proud of it all. They are beautiful, but far out, it was hard to get there.

“And it’s only really just begun, to be honest. If that’s an idea that started five or six years ago, I’d say that’s four years of very expensive trial and error and research and a year of actually getting stuff that we’re really proud of and can sell. But that was a big investment and of time as well. I mean if I was charging someone that would be a very expensive job!”

It’s looking like it’s worth it. Dillinger Optics was recently showcased in The Telegraph (UK) on the front page and inside-spread of its men’s fashion lift-out, Luxury. It made for incredible exposure.

Telegraph (UK) Luxury September 2021 Cover

Similarly, the international interest now shown in the art of Lucky Amour is what Frichot good-naturedly describes as “a 30-year overnight success.” His sign-up to the Lyons Gallery, who operate three main galleries in Australia – Melbourne, Sydney and Port Douglas – and have affiliations with galleries around the world, particularly in the UK – is a significant moment in his career as an artist.

“Lots of different good things have always happened which have kept me going and I’ve got lots to be grateful for,” he notes. “There have been lots of people who’ve been really supportive and lots of good things that have happened, but at the moment there’s a nexus of really exciting international, purely artistic opportunities which is literally a dream come true for me. Simple as that.”

‘Milk Bar’ – Lucky Amour

Frichot looks up and around the walls of his Fremantle home. They’re adorned with Lucky Amour originals, a rogues-and-roses gallery that mashes and mixes and twists timelines with beautiful, fanciful evocations of Elvis Presley, Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, Audrey Hepburn, Lee Marvin and Bridget Bardot among assorted cars, skulls and robots from the 1950’s. It’s post-modern, past-gloried and future-storied; reduxed, refit and remodelled for the new now.

An endless collection of riffs. They’re selling well, too.

“I’m mixed between extreme gratitude, extreme excitement and a little bit of nervousness that I hope that nothing goes wrong,” Frichot admits.

“Or that anything interrupts it. Even then I need to push that thinking aside, because it is what it is and it’ll be what it’ll be and all you can do is the best you can do. The other thing is I actually really love doing it all and what’s really exciting about that is if you can achieve some success around doing something like that which I’m so invested in and passionate about, then every day is exciting.

“There’s every reason to bounce out of bed every morning just to make more.”

The Works Of Lucky Amour, AKA Ben Frichot, Available From The Lyons Gallery

thelyonsgallery.com

dillingeroptics.com

ERROL H TOUT Of Time And Space

Errol H Tout in his “modest but tidy studio”

Acclaimed West Australian guitar virtuoso Errol H Tout has released his new album, Dancing About Architecture, a labour of love recorded over a period of three years.

And he knows what he’s dancing about. Tout was Head of the Department of Architecture & Interior Architecture at Curtin University of Technology until 2008, then was more latterly a Senior Lecturer and Chair of the Science and Technology Stream. Then again, he’s also a graduate of King Crimson icon Robert Fripp’s Guitar Craft school.

For the one-time career architect and long-time musician, many things lie within the name of the new LP. Variously attributed to the likes of Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello and comedian Martin Mull, Tout dug further for this, the perfect album title.

“The first quote that I’ve been able to track down from 1931 in the New York Times,” Tout explains. “It was a journalist who actually said it in the context of writing and music being two different artforms and you shouldn’t try doing both at the same time. So writing about music was as stupid as dancing about architecture.

“Laurie Anderson used it too, I think,” he adds. “It’s been used and abused! For me, it just made a lot of sense. Once upon a time, being an architect and now I’m being a musician. So it fits well.”

Similarly, while music and architecture may be regarded as two different disciplines, architectural concepts play into the way Tout thinks about music…

“Very much so,” Tout says. “There’s a perception as you move through something. The perception of space is that you see it as you move through it. The perception of sound is that sound moves past you. So things move though each other and there’s should be a level of being able to discuss clearly about how it actually does it.

“You certainly have to do that in Architecture school. So architecture is about moving through space, and music is about moving through time.”

Dancing About Architecture follows up 2013’s The Post-Tumour Humour album and 2017’s Luminous. These three albums have been written, recorded, and released during Errol’s 10-year battle with cancer and are testament to the drive, creativity, and good humour of the man amidst that challenge. The new LP has been on the go since 2018, between surgeries and various hospital visits.

“I did it a very long time ago, some of it was done three years ago. There’s definitely one song on there that’s about me squaring up to the C-Bomb, a song called Seconds And Moments.”

The song features a rare vocal by Tout, complemented by an unexpected collaborator. “I sampled Bruce Lee talking about how he deals with an opponent in a martial arts competition,” he explains. “And it kind of made sense with what I was doing. So I took the sample and popped it in. I then wrote away and asked permission to use it, but they never wrote back so I assume it’s okay. So there’s one piece about the C-Bomb, the rest are about all sorts of different things.”

All sorts, indeed. Backed by a dynamic music video directed by Tout’s son Sam (who also contributes keyboards and bass to the album) The Black Dance recalls the alternative nightlife experiences of Tout’s musical past, when he was an emergent post-punk guitarist in the ‘80s.  

“There used to be a nightclub in Perth called The Red Parrot,” he recalls, “and in this den of iniquity people used to wear black and they had a certain way of dancing. This reminds me of that. It’s kind of a Cabaret Voltaire kind of vibe, but with guitars. It’s a really old piece and I feel it sounds fantastic in this version that we’ve recorded.”

Album opener Spiders sonically evokes the arachnid onslaught that terrified Tout’s wife in their kitchen. “So I made something that has these little things that scatter and run across the stereo picture,” he says. “It also fulfils my objective of trying to make bright, cheerful, and sometimes witty guitar music without sounding like a complete tosser. So it’s a funny little thing about spiders that get bigger and nastier as the piece goes on. It’s got a real groove to it that I really like.”

Slice Me Up Baby, meanwhile, “is a really old piece about my first visit to hospital to have various things cut out of my body. There were so many people in the theatre and so many bits of gear. I thought, ‘is that all for me? Well, slice me up baby!’ It’s about trying to get on top of things and not let things get on top of you.

“It’s really hard to find a sample of someone cutting a piece of liver, because it doesn’t make much noise. I had to compromise and use bits of timber being cut and chopped around!”

Dancing About Architecture also sees the return on the inimitable rhythm section of Roy Martinez (bass) and Ric Eastman (drums) whose tracks were recorded in an impressive two-day session at Lee Buddle’s Crank Recording Studio (the rest of the album was captured in Tout’s own “modest but tidy studio”). Fellow guitarist, Mike Gorman, a player who complements Tout’s playing in a very niche manner, is also back. They come and go from places that many haven’t been before.

“Mike brings all sorts of stuff with him,” Tout says. “He’s done courses with Robert Fripp and all kinds of stuff as well, more than I have done. That’s how we connected. He kind of came over for a cup of tea and stayed ever since. He brings a lot to the table, there’s ideas that I had – on Secret Agent Theme and Surf Action – that Mike could execute better than I could.

“So it’s really nice working with another guitarist because we’re kind of on the same page. I worked with lots of other guitar players and thought differently to them, but the fact that we’ve both been to Guitar Craft courses keeps us on the same page.”

Tout states that he had 45-50 pieces from which to choose from for a place on the album. Given that it’s predominantly instrumental music, the 14 tracks chosen made their presence felt due to an interesting set of selection criteria.

“The selection criteria was that you should be able to sing most of the pieces,” Tout explains. “Which was a good kind of benchmark. Some of the pieces are really catchy, and I was really trying to do that. There’s other ways that guitarists do things, and they all have their merits, but I was after something that sticks and maybe has a little bit of humour and wit.

“It’s an area that I like to inhabit, and I don’t know an awful lot of people who would have done stuff like that. It’s slightly outside of the rock mainstream, but still with a fair bit of energy and fun in there as well.”

Dancing About Architecture is available on vinyl for the first four months of its release and will thereafter be accessible on all major streaming platforms. With his eye already on his next release, Tout is well pleased with how his latest chapter has turned out.

“It’s a part of a continuum of one’s life work,” he considers. “It’s another chapter, and there’s lots more to come. I kind of like that – doing stuff and moving on, then moving on and moving on. Doing something better and different and in other ways than before… but it’s nice working with these same people because they’re just so bloody good!”

Errol H Tout launches Dancing About Architecture at Ellington Jazz Club on Tuesday, September 7.

THE LONESOME LOCAL LOCKDOWN

FeaturedTHE LONESOME LOCAL LOCKDOWN

(First published on Facebook – July 3, 2021)

I’ve spent the last fortnight staying in a room upstairs at The Local Hotel on South Terrace, South Fremantle. I’ve been in the throes of moving house, and as a new place fell through just before my exit date, my dear friends at The Local sorted a room for me to stay at in the interim.

I practically live there already. I’ve hosted a weekly talk/performance event on Thursdays off-and-on (mostly on, 28 shows to date) since last October; regularly find a spot to write on my laptop there, and constantly enjoy drinks with folks from the wondrous Freo musical scene. I dearly love the creative community around South Freo, and The Local Hotel is both a heart and hub for this.

In the last week it’s been oh-so-quiet everywhere along South Terrace due to lockdown. While my first week staying at my favourite pub was incredibly social, the second lot-of-seven-days has been a contemplative experience, to say the least.

Week-2 has seen lockdown and the realities that hit a venue such as this. The constant murmur of bubble and squeaks and beats and basslines from DJ sets squirreling from downstairs-to-up; the tales and riffs from local musical heroes, the laughter of fond friends and even the hints of early romance in the front bar have made way for radio silence. It’s all rain and wind outside and faraway footsteps within. THE LOCAL HOTEL HAS BEEN CLOSED.

At times I’ve felt as though I’m the only person in the whole pub. There are other people staying here, but no-one is doing anything or going out. I only hear people and never see them. It’s like they’re ghosts. Which means I am also a ghost. In a Ghost Hotel.

I endeavour to be Casper (The Friendly Ghost, if you recall). It helps a bit as early in Week-2 I develop minor cold symptoms, resulting in a refreshing day trip to Fiona Stanley Hospital.

Turns out she’s not even related to Paul Stanley. Even so, I’m open to being thoroughly doused and dubbed then directed to go home and self-isolate. In a closed pub, during a lockdown. Quiet stuff. My test result comes back within 12 hours and is reassuringly negative. Such a mild experience compared to the scenarios of so many.

But I’m left with this playground. This lovely/lonesome Local Hotel which has been so good to me. So I take a mid-morning to take a walk-around (masked, mind) to capture the quiet, closed moments. It will open its arms and doors to its charming, salt-of-the-earth staff and clientele, but for this moment and all the moments (and the new memories, and the old ghosts), it literally has become my favourite haunt. And I love it now more than ever.

Pandemic or not. Support your Local. Whatever it’s called, wherever it may be.

(Vax, also).

THE REDUCTORS Intellect, Imagery, Humanity And Humour

THE REDUCTORS        Intellect, Imagery, Humanity And Humour

As the ever-elegantly-suited Robert Palmer (RIP) once noted, ‘the proof is irrefutable’.

And it is indeed an irrefutable truth about art – there ain’t nothing like the classics. Some songs, books and films have never finished saying what they have to say. It’s this kind of bedrock that Perth band, The Reductors, are founded upon.

To begin (the beguine), singer/songwriter/guitarist, Luke Nixon, has harboured a deep love of classic punk and post-punk since his earliest years.

“I grew up in Wales, and spent my teens listening to Manchester punk and post-punk bands,” he recalls. “In particular Joy Division, The Fall, Buzzcocks and The Smiths which, as it happens, also had a big impact on the other band members.”

Classic literature has also played a part in Nixon’s continued artistic development. The characters and themes in his songs are borne of a lifetime of reading.

“Philip K. Dick, David Foster Wallace, Martin Amis, Dylan Thomas,” he notes, “variously for intellect, imagery, humanity and humour.”

These flavours and inspirations motivated Nixon to create his own music and write his own songs. Not from a punk-fuelled need to act out, but at various points to explore his feelings both within, then beyond.

“Originally, the motivation was to retreat and immerse myself in my own private world,” he recalls. “At the time, music was the key thing that enabled me to achieve that.

“I stopped writing songs for a long while, and when I started again, it was from a desire to create connections to the outside of that world, for artistic and personal reasons.”

Having landed in Perth, the seeds of The Reductors began about a decade ago. In scientific terms, a reductor is an apparatus for conducting a type of experiment to reduce a substance. “It seemed appropriate for creating social commentary in song form,” says Nixon, bringing it back to the art of the matter.

“Honestly, this band seems to have been a subliminal process in which the current members each materialised into the line-up, through one means or another, over a number of years. A series of happy accidents.”

Those ‘happy accidents’ are Aidan Gordon (lead guitar/backing vocals – ex-The Autumn Isles/Tenderhooks); Gareth Bevan (bass/backing vocals – Will Stoker & The Embers) and Erin Gordon (drums – The Quivers). Occupying the lead vocalist/guitar podium is Nixon, who previously trod the boards with The Horseless Cowboys.

“I write our songs – music and lyrics – and bring them to the band with a form and structure,” Nixon says of the band’s creative dynamic. “We work on the arrangements together, with each of us contributing and developing ideas. The other band members are all seriously talented musicians, who bring vital elements of their artistry, personality and enthusiasm to the creative process, and to our live performances.”

The Reductors released their debut album, Caboose, in 2017, followed by a double-A-side single, Practical Girl/Tremors, the following year. Across the output is an edgy melange of melodic punk and rock sensibilities. It’s not hard to tell that Nixon knows what he wants out of his songs.

“The important thing is to make songs that the audience can connect with, whether through the music or the lyrics,” he explains. “As a band, we all have an affinity for post-punk music, so we are influenced by everything that contributed to that milieu, including American bands such as The Stooges and Richard Hell and the Voidoids, as well as those Manchester bands I already mentioned.”

With that in mind, the band’s new single, Body Scan, shines the light ahead for kicking against the grain in (hopefully) post-COVID times. Already nominated in the Punk Category in the 2020 WAM Song Of The Year Awards, Body Scan fights the future and cracks like The Clash. The song shames body shaming and punches the air in the most satisfying way. 

“The song addresses the illusory and damaging focus in society and popular culture on body image ideals,” Nixon notes. “I have a number of friends who have been negatively affected by perceived norms and ideals relating to body image. The raucousness and pace of the music makes for an effective contrast to those ideals by signifying vitality over perfection.”

The song was recorded with Rob Grant (Queens of the Stone Age, Death Cab for Cutie, Pond) at Poons Head Studio in Fremantle.

“We love collaborating with Rob,” says Nixon, “he is so knowledgeable and experienced, and terrific company. There is also real magic to Poons Head… it is quite unique.”

Body Scan is the first taste of The Reductors’ forthcoming second album, due in 2021. Another single release is scheduled for the end of the year, whereupon the band will increase their local shows and pursue a tour of the South-West.

Despite the downtime of WA’s version of COVID-19 isolation, The Reductors are in a good place to build on the momentum set in the last few years. For Nixon, his initial outlook for the band is evolving very nicely indeed.

“The original vision was to create something unique through a sort of organised chaos,” he says. “We had plenty of chaos, but not much else, so I decided to rebuild, artistically, from something a bit more elemental – the first album is really a record of that rebuilding.

“Now we are liberated from that process and producing our most energised and authentic music.”

In the meantime The Reductors will launch Body Scan on Saturday, August 22, at Lyric’s Underground in Maylands, teaming with The Limbs, who will also be launching their new single, Do Not Help Me, which was also nominated for a WAM Song Of The Year award. Also along for this amazing double-launch are special guests Will Stoker & The Embers and Tanami. Bookings via Oztix.com.au.

Facebook Event Pagehttps://www.facebook.com/events/683873885498057/

Photo credit: Elle Borgward