from THE ANGELS
Interviewer – Julie Ink-Slinger
The Angels are one of Australia’s most iconic rock bands, celebrating four decades together in 2014. They burst onto the scene in the mid 70’s and their bluesy hard rock music found its way into the hearts and minds of music fans across Australia.
I got a chance to catch up with Rick Brewster to talk about new album releases, an autobiography and two upcoming tours.
J: Congratulations on the vinyl re-issue of your album “Dark Room”. Whose idea was it and why re-issue that particular album?
R: Ah, okay, that was our record company’s idea. I guess, with the current surge in vinyl, you only have to go to JB HiFi to see how many vinyl records there are these days, turntables and everything, people worldwide have obviously woken up and realised it does actually sound better and our record company Liberation, thought it would be a great idea to re-release Dark Room. Really, they’ve never told me why, but I suspect it was because it was our first album with that record company after we left Albert’s.
J: Why do you believe analogue recordings draw people into music in ways that digital never quite matches?
R: It’s definitely a warmer sound, it’s got more depth. I can’t give a definitive answer, there are a lot of explanations I suppose. It’s really down to your ears and what you enjoy. I think it’s the size of the artwork that has a bit to do with it too. And there are other things that are aesthetically pleasing, it’s side one and side two which you never get on CD obviously, and you physically have to turn the record over from side one to side two, or change the record to something else. But the whole thought process that used to go into choosing the first track on side one, the last track on side one, the first track on side two, and the last track on the album, there were many arguments over those big decisions.
J: You have also released a 36-track double album compilation called “The Brothers, Angels & Demons” which begins pre-rock band in the early 70s through to playing with the Adelaide Art Orchestra. What tracks have you included that encapsulate the band’s 40+ year musical journey?
R: Ah, you have to listen to the whole double CD to get that. Choosing the right tracks wasn’t so hard, we wanted to choose tracks that covered our history, from our earliest days until the present. And it really was a companion to the book, which gives an in depth look at the history of the band, how it began and how it evolved and the album is a musical representation of that same history.
J: With regard to the book, described as a “warts and all inside story of The Angels”. What was it like to recount decades of history together?
R: Well, it was a fascinating journey. It was three and a half years of Bob Yates, the author, dredging up stories from, not just ourselves, but other ex-members of the band, including some of the people we had forgotten about, including promoters, record company people, engineers, producers. These people all had stories and Bob did an amazing job finding those people, interviewing them, getting their stories, and putting it together in chapter form. It’s a good read. But I know Bob found it difficult to cut it down to the number of words that it had to be, so there’s a fair bit of stuff that didn’t make the book. Consequently, a lot of that stuff was put on a companion website called theangelsbook.com.au and that has other stories, but mostly photographic and video material.
J: You had an interest in photography in the early years, right? Didn’t some of your photos end up on your record covers?
R: Yeah, that’s right. I took the photo of Doc’s eyes on the cover of the Dark Room album, for example. The photographer, Phil Morris, photographed us a lot in the early days and he did the No Exit album cover. He’s the guy who inspired me to take up photography. He was a great guy. He taught me everything. He used to let me go to his lab, he taught me how to develop and print. It’s been a hobby of mine ever since. It’s digital these days though. I don’t know any professional photographer that isn’t digital these days.
J: Jimmy Barnes succinctly characterised The Angels as “A band that changed Australian music forever”. I grew up going to Angels’ gigs and I agree with Jimmy Barnes. Your songs and your shows were punchy and exciting and epitomised Aussie pub rock. Do you agree with Jimmy and I?
R: Well actually yes, I do. And it’s easy to say that these days, because I’m so far from it, I can look at it objectively and I am proud of the band. I think it’s an amazing band, whether it’s the old band with Doc out front or the new band with Dave Gleeson out front. He’s just as amazing as Doc, just in a different way. But it’s not even the people. It’s the music. If you get the book, read the foreword. Jimmy Barnes wrote a wonderful piece of which the quote you mention is just a snippet of what he wrote which is really insightful.
J: You’re touring throughout Australia from October to December, with the likes of Rose Tattoo, Diesel and Mi-Sex. You are also part of the line-up of The Red Hot Summer Tour 2018, with artists such as Suzi Quatro, the Baby Animals and The Screaming Jets. How excited are you to be hitting the road? And what can older and newer fans expect from the shows?
R: Oh yeah, it’s great. We’ve been off the road for a while now so I can’t wait to get back playing. And those bands that you mentioned have a place in our history, including The Hitmen at a couple of the shows and in Tasmania we’ve got The Dave Wilson Band. I’ve only known Dave for the last couple of years. He’s got an amazing three-piece band and such a great guitar player. As for songs we’ll play, I’ll say what I always say, something old, something new and something blue. We’re also really looking forward to playing with some of the bands that are touring with us. Bob Spencer, for example, with Rose Tattoo, played with us for six years. He’s another great guitar player who will jump up and jam with us on various songs.
J: Rick, you trained as a classical pianist. How much of an influence did your classical piano background have on your sense of melody, your guitar solos and your overall contribution to The Angels’ signature sound?
R: A very big influence. I like to think that I have carried that classical background through everything I’ve done. Like you said, it’s all about melody. It’s what my father used to say to me, every time he walked passed the piano and I was practicing he’d say, “mate, the melody is singing”. My father was a classical cellist and pianist and so was his father. Both of them were quite amazing musicians.
J: Rick, how do you go from being a classical pianist, which is no easy feat, to being such a great guitarist?
R: I didn’t really know how to play the guitar when I started The Angels. I could play chords, but playing lead guitar was something I had to teach myself on the road.
J: Well, you did very well on the road!
R: Thank you.
J: Thanks for your time Rick. Have a great day.
R: Thanks Julie, you too, bye bye.
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