Interview with Paul Wood from Red Jezebel
Red Jezebel have been one of the seminal bands in Perth for the last 20 years, even though they have a tendency to pop up out of nowhere, play a couple of shows and then disappear again for another year or so. We spoke to Woody about the band’s milestones, the Perth scene, and defacing a Little Birdy sign while on tour!
It’s your 20 year anniversary this year. Have you guys got anything special planned for it?
Funnily enough, no. Well….actually, yeah we are. We are doing a little show down in Bunbury with Gyroscope.
Yeah I saw that. I was not happy about the date though. I can’t go
Ahh damn. We probably will do something later on in the year though.
Rage is celebrating a milestone this year too. if you could program Rage, what videos would you choose and why?
Oh, well I actually haven’t watched a video clip in a long time. I’m quite partial to more story-telling videos like Rabbit In Your Headlights by UNKLE where the guy is walking down the tunnel. I find that absolutely amazing. A lot in that kind of vein for me personally. I like to see a story going while the music is playing – even harping back to Michael Jackson days – Thriller – the EPIC 20 minute version.
When you guys first formed in 1997, did you ever think that you would still be playing on and off in 2017?
You know what? I think people do think that. I mean, we were really young and green and you go into these things with that thought in your head “we’ll be around forever! It’s gonna be awesome!” but more often than not, that is NOT the case. I find it kind of odd that we have been around this long actually and kinda cool but it just seems to keep working.
The Perth scene would have changed dramatically since you first started out. What have been the most positive changes? And what have been the negative changes?
We can start with the negative and that would be mass closing of venues – going back to when we first started – The Grosvenor (front and back room), the Swanbourne Hotel, just across the metropolitan area. It was thriving; it was great and obviously those slowly declined, shut down which lead to interest in the scene wane quite a bit because it wasn’t easily accessible for many years. But the positive thing I guess, is seeing it climb its way back up with the opening of new venues and people actually making an effort to put live music in their places.
Whether it be giant bands, like Badlands (after taking over Devilles) or even just small cafes and restaurants. The Moon’s been doing it for god knows how long – doing solos on Wednesdays or Tuesdays (whenever it is) and that seems to be picking up a lot more on the regular.
I remember the Grosvenor – some of the first bands I saw were Sage, Caligula and Beaverloop
Ahhh sneak in?
No, they used to put on under age shows there
At the back room? Yeah that’s right. There used to be the battle between Grosvenor Back-room and Planet Night Club (Planet Basement) – that was a good one for all ages. My very first gig (well, watching a gig) was at Planet Basement – incredible line up too. You Am I, Jebediah, Ammonia and Automatic.
Yeah a truly incredible line up.
Especially Ammonia – they need to come back again.
As we get older, our experiences and influences change. How have yours changed over the years?
Well, they’ve broadened. Quite a lot. I guess my influences, when starting were very different. You play to your influences when you are first starting a band, paying homage and what not but 20 years…I imagine people get bored doing the same thing after 20 years but influences…there’s nothing I don’t really listen to and not enjoy any more these days. I have over 400 records on the shelf now that I’m looking at and I think I have got somewhere close to 18,000 albums in my iTunes account so I never struggle to find something to listen to.
Although, then there are those days when you can’t find something that you want to listen to!
Yep. That’s true. It’s very difficult to catalogue and arrange I would say.
As a band, what has been your biggest challenge so far and how have you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I guess, is time. Yeah, definitely time for us. Not to say that we….how do I word this? Life gets in the way, that’s one thing but Jez has always been a big part, a big priority for all of us so I guess how we’re overcoming it is by staying close. Even though we may not see each other for 6 months in a year, when we do get back together, it’s like it was yesterday.
And that’s the sign of a true friendship isn’t it?
Yeah, indeed. Definitely why it’s worked for us for so long.
You guys have supported some pretty big bands over the years. What have been some of your favourite shows and why?
Yeah there’s a few. Touring with Jebediah – I’ll lump all those tours into one because it seems to be a continuous experience with a couple of years break inbetween. They are just absolute legends.
Some our more off kilter ones – it was our first time playing with Elbow from the UK and we ended up having an impromptu birthday party after the show in the courtyard of Amplifier – fun ensued.
Are you guys working on any new material at all?
I’m always working on new material that’s the thing. Even with the last album, 10 tracks, I think we put on that, or the one before that actually, I think we had 40 or 50 in the vault. It was incredible. We do have a lot of back catalogue that we still reference and see if we can work out into something new so we do have a lot up our sleeves so hopefully we can out out more sooner rather than later. The seven year gap is getting a bit tiresome.
What are some of the more disgusting things that you have seen at a show? And what are some of the best things that you have seen at a show?
Disgusting things…..I don’t know really. What could be called disgusting or horrible things at a show we actually find quite entertaining. Part and parcel really between the two. We haven’t had anyone rush the stage yet. Some people do heckle us and that can be absolutely hilarious. Cruicky (our bass player) is an absolute master at it but yeah I can’t actually pin one – nothing’s springing to mind.
Oh there’s one that happened (by our own making) on the Little Birdy tour. I think it was the Hi-Fi Bar and during soundcheck we constructed this giant cardboard sign that we had set up on the mezzanine level in this glass window that looked onto the stage and it was all lit up so that the band on stage could see it perfectly.
It had windows drawn across and we drew this giant, uh, you know the Little Birdy logo that they used to have, with a deep-veining cock towards its mouth and we slowly drew the curtains back to their amazement and horror but no one else could see it but everyone in the band could.
There were all these kind of hijinks going on
How did they react to that?
Mostly well. They were getting us in certain ways so it was common – back and forth.
When you first started, what was the most valuable advice that you were given and what advice would you give to someone starting out now?
Most valuable advice, one thing that sticks to mind very early came from Dave Cutbush when he was booking The Grosvenor back in the days and I think it was something along the lines of “guys, try not to be shit tonight!”. I kinda took it to heart there and then but in hindsight, it was a Cutbush way of making you do better. I guess, what I would say to anyone else is your throwaway words of persistence, don’t give up, blah blah blah but if it makes you feel good – keep doing it and that’s the only reason why you should be doing it.
Definitely good advice – if you’re not enjoying it, why do it?
Exactly, because the person who’s going to enjoy it the most is you and then the people watching if they do a good job.
And if people on the stage aren’t enjoying it, then the people on the floor won’t enjoy it either.
I just read in an article about things that local bands don’t get that going to other bands’ shows is THE most important thing you can do to support your scene. What local bands do you guys go and see whenever you get the opportunity?
For the first ten years, I was out almost four times a week seeing gigs just because I loved it. Absolutely loved it as was everyone else in the band. Nowadays, everyone with work and some of with kids, it gets a little more difficult. I do go out every now and then. I only live a stone’s throw away from the Rosemount now which is good.
With local bands though, my memory’s terrible with names these days. A whole new batch has come through but it’s always amazing when I go out to see them as I have no bit of reference so I’m constantly surprised and then I go home, wake up and forget the name.
There’s so many of them now as well.
I know! And that’s a good thing. It’s a great thing.
If you could collaborate with any artist in the world, who would you choose?
There’s a few. I’ll pick a couple. Radiohead have obviously been a huuuge influence as far as sheer ingenuity and persistence in the studio – I love that ethos.
Going back to more traditional methods – Steve Earle. I’m a big fan of Steve Earle and son as far as story-telling goes and I’d love to work with Neil Young as well.
One person I’d love to sit down with and get some lessons on lyric writing would be Neil Finn.
He would be interesting to talk to as well.
He is yeah. We played a show with him a few years ago. Didn’t have a long chat but yeah.
Anything else that you would like to share?
Nothing off the top of my head. Just the dates for our upcoming shows that I should be mentioning – Hot Freaks Festival on May 19 at Badlands and a show with Gyroscope down in Bunbury on June 4.