Interview with JAMES REYNE
James Reyne has kicked off his “All Crawl” national tour & will be performing Australian Crawl classics such as “Boys Light Up”, “Reckless” and many more as he takes the show around the country through out August and September. Amnplify’s Pauli Dee spoke to the Australian Music legend in what turned out to be a very raw & brutally honest chat…
Pauli: Hi James, Thanks for talking with us.
You’ve just kicked off your “All Crawl” tour starting off at The Palms, Crown in Melbourne last weekend. How was that?
James: Yeah it was great! The crowd went nuts and we actually have 5 at The Palms. They were the first 2, they were a lot of fun.
You would have played there before, right
Yeah, I’ve played there many times before. It’s a great venue.
And you’ll be leaving this beautiful Melbourne weather over the next day or two to take the tour to Queensland?
Yep! We go to Brisbane on Wednesday. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to getting out of the cold, if nothing else!
I’m thinking you’ve probably played at almost every venue across Australia by now.
Hahaha yeah well they’re all great venues. You have to play somewhere & there’s a few that have been around for a while & we walk in and say “Oh yeah, we know this place,” and then there’s the others, but you always make yourself at home. We know how it goes, how it runs & where things are.
Do you have a favourite place to play?
Hmmm a favourite place to play? I like it when we get up north, just because the weather’s beautiful, but nah, they’re all pretty good. You try and make the best of all of them really.
You’re playing the capital cities on this tour, but you do a lot of regional touring. Do you find much of a difference between the country and the city gigs?
Ummm, nah, not really, because as soon as you get the people in the venue & you start playing, hey all seem to react the same. Our ‘mission statement’ so to speak is to have a good time ourselves and have some fun, but also to get everyone else to have some fun & usually by the end, they’re all feeling like they’ve really had a great night.
You’ve been playing Australian Crawl songs for 30 years. Do you ever get sick of playing the same songs?
Some of them I get a bit sick of, but then you sort of rekindle your interest in them. This is an All Crawl show, where we’re doing nothing but Australian Crawl, but even in our normal show, we still play a few Crawl songs. I’d get lynched if I didn’t, but yeah, I went through a period a few years ago where I got sick of Reckless an then late I found something in the song that I quite like now. We play so much better now than when we did. We’re actually good musicians now. This is a really good band, so we’ve managed to really find some dynamics in some of the songs that weren’t there originally. We haven’t changed the songs, we’ve just found a real dynamic in most of them. It’s always in there. If you have the ability to find the dynamic, it’s always in there somewhere.
What is it, do you think, that makes Australian Crawl songs still so celebrated after all this time?
I have no idea! Well I think a lot of it is the fact that they were absolutely flogged on the radio for a generation growing up, so it sort of forms the soundtrack to your youth & it’s always the songs that you grew up listening to that stay with you for most of your life. I’ve said this before; every time I hear Harvest by Neil Young or one of those early Van Morrison albums, I’m straight back to the time when I first heard them, so I think that probably rings true for some people & I think some of them are genuinely good songs, when played well they’re quite fun. Lyrically, they’re just good fun, I mean we were having fun when we wrote them. We’re not trying to write about big serious issues & they’re ok songs.
You mention that for a lot of us, the songs take us back to our childhood or our teens. Do you also find a younger generation coming to your gigs that wouldn’t have even been born when they were released?
Yeah I have noticed that. The last few years I’ve really noticed a lot of younger people coming to the gigs, a lot of young guys. It used to be the joke of “Oh they’ve been listening to their older siblings’ records” but now we know they’ve been listening to their parents records! We do get a lot of young guys in their 20’s coming to the shows. Maybe they just like the band. We’ve got some great guitar players in the band, Brett Kingman & Josh Owen. So maybe they come to watch them. Our rhythm section is awesome too. We have John Watson on drums & Andy McIvor on bass. These guys are really good players & I see a lot of the younger guys in the crowd just standing there with their mouths open starring at the guitar players, so there’s that whole side of it as well.
Is playing to an audience different now to 30 years ago? Or is it still the same experience?
Nah, I don’t think so, I think it’s the same. The exchange is the same. We’re putting it out there, they’re receiving it and hopefully throwing it back at us. It’s a two-way street, it’s communication & I think if you’re doing it on a good level and you’re giving the audience something than it’s always going to be the same sort of human experience. Some nights you say “Wow, they really went off tonight” more than the night before, but sometimes they’ve come straight from work on a Friday night and they’ll be different to a Saturday night crowd, but there could be a million reasons why they react the way they do.
You have Boom Crash Opera helping you out at a few of the shows, right?
We do! Fronted by Andy De Silva now, because Dale doesn’t sing for them anymore.
Those guys must feel like family to you these days.
They are. I’ve played with them a lot over the years and I know Peter Maz really well, he’s a really good friend of mine and the other guys are mates as well. We’ve all been doing this for a while & you just get to know people, you know, you find like-minded souls & you just become good friends with a lot of these people.
Do you get on stage with them on this tour? Or is it a totally separate set?
No. They do their set and then I reckon they’re half way down the road by the time we’re playing our first song!
Hahaha You’ve worked and played alongside some of Australia’s biggest names in the industry. Do you have a favourite Australian artist? Or someone that you’re a fan of and particularly admire?
I’m a big fan of a lot of them. Again, if they’re not good friends, a lot of them are acquaintances & I have great admiration for a lot of them. Especially the ones that are still doing it, because I know how hard you’ve gotta work & how tricky it can be to hang around this long & still have a healthy, respectable career, working on a really good level. I’m really grateful that we can go out on tour and do what we do & I’ve got some great friends in bands. Rick Grossman, who’s in Hoodoo Gurus is a friend of mine. Mark Seymour’s a great friend of mine & Daryl Braithwaite. There’s a lot & I have great respect for people like Mark Lizotte & Jimmy Barnes and Farnham because they’re just REALLY good at what they do & there’s no denying that they’ve carved a niche in this country’s history that cannot be denied & you’ve just got to respect that.
Agreed. Is there anyone in the industry that you haven’t worked with yet, that you’d love to work with?
Ummm, God, I’ve been so lucky to work with the people that I have… I can’t think of any, but it’s one of those questions where I’ll probably think of 10 people as soon as the interview’s over!
I saw a video recently of you singing with Keith Urban at Nicole Kidman’s birthday! How did that come about?
Well that was for Nicole’s birthday. I don’t want to say too much about out of respect for their privacy, but it was her birthday and Keith reckons she’s a bit of a fan. Apparently she listens to my music when she goes jogging, so he just rang up and asked if I’d go over & play a couple songs for her birthday & I said I’d love to. Then while I was there, he said “is it ok if I get up and play as well with you” and I was like of course! Are you kidding me? So he and I played about 5 or 6 songs together for her and the family & it was lovely. They’re lovely, lovely people & it was a great experience.
So who would be the ultimate to song at YOUR birthday? Who are you going to call up?
Oh I’ll have no singing at my birthday! Although I did have a birthday party recently and quite a few people got up and sang. It was unreal.
Your last solo album, “Thirteen” has been hailed as some of your best work yet.
That’s what I’ve read! Do you not think so?
Yeah I think there’s some great stuff on it, I really do. Lyrically, I love some of the songs on there. It’s quite frustrating that they never get to see the light of day really because I think there’s a couple of great songs on there that should be all over the radio, but what do you do?
Is recording something you still enjoy doing?
Yeah. I made a record called “James Reyne & The Magnificent Few” at the start of last year. That’s a really good record. That’s got some great songs on it. My band and I did that old school where I just play them acoustically and then we go into the studio & then everyone puts their parts down & that got some fantastic reviews, but my publishing company, Mushroom don’t seem to be doing anything with my music, which frustrates the hell out of me. I think they have their head stuck in the mud & I’m happy for you to write that, by the way!
I was just going to ask if you wanted me to edit that bit out or not!
No! Please keep it in there. Mushroom publishing are extremely frustrating & they’re run by a woman who insulted me in a meeting. She’s supposed to be my publisher & she knows nothing about me and for that I think is unforgivable in a publisher.
Are you sure you want me to include that in the piece?
Yeah! You don’t take one of your main writers & not know anything about what he’s done, if you’re a proper publisher & know what you’re doing. She wasn’t even aware of half of the song’s I’ve written, so I’ve been really annoyed by that person & I don’t know how she has her job, to be honest.
So where do you go from there?
Well I’m contracted to them for a couple more years, so I can’t leave, but if I could, I would! If I could leave tomorrow, I’d walk out of there, but, you know… Here’s some advice for aspiring young song-writers, don’t sign with Mushroom publishing.
I’d like to finish the interview on a positive note with One Random Minute where I’ll fire off a few quick, random questions, like;
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
I didn’t actually have any breakfast this morning. I went for a run, but I usually have my banana and blueberry smoothie.
What’s your favourite dessert?
Oh I try not to eat dessert, but if I did, probably chocolate mousse.
Tea of coffee?
Apples or bananas?
Elvis or The Beatles?
Boxers or briefs?
Hmmm probably bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato
Who’s your idol?
I have a few… Ummm, E.E. Cummings
plays AUSTRALIAN CRAWL: ALL CRAWL
With specials guests Boom Crash Opera and Ollie Brown
Tickets on sale now
Friday 11th August
Eatons Hill Hotel, QLD *
Saturday 12th August
The Tivoli Brisbane, QLD
Friday 8th September
Evan Theatre, Penrith Panthers, Penrith NSW
Saturday, September 9th
The Enmore Sydney NSW *
Friday 15th September & Saturday 16th September
The Palms at Crown, Melbourne
Tickets: 1300 795 012
Friday 22nd September
The Astor, Perth WA *
Saturday 23rd September
Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre, Bunbury WA
James Reyne’s annual Cup Eve show
Monday 6th November
Corner Hotel, Richmond, Vic
* Boom Crash Opera appearing at these shows only