The Big Beat In The Heart Of The Vinyl Jungle

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How about the Hoodoo Gurus?

The Hoodoo Gurus was the first one that we put out where we didn’t know the people in the band. We went and saw them a few times because some girls who I knew had a band – a sort of a Shangri-La’s type band, and they played their first gig on top of the museum. And on the bill with them was these friends of theirs in this new band called the Hoodoo Gurus. And as far as I know, it was the first gig for both bands.

So we went along to that gig, and they were really good and we liked them – Dare came as well. So we saw them a couple more times at a couple of gigs. And what happened was that when we were doing some cutting – mastering some records at EMI – we overpaid. We paid one bill twice, so we overpaid them by $750. And they didn’t really want to give it back to us…well, it sort of wasn’t admitted, or something. I dunno. Whatever happened was we had this credit where we couldn’t get the cash back for some bloody reason. So we talked to the band and said “Do you want to make a record?” And they said, “Well, we’ve been thinking about making a record, but we haven’t got any money.” And we said “Well, we’ve got $750 worth of credit at EMI studios”, which was a bloody good studio – Studio 301. David Bowie recorded an album there much later on.

So we said “As long as you use this credit and don’t use any more, we’ll do it. Do you think you can do it for $750?” It couldn’t be any more, because we couldn’t afford taking money out of the shop. So they reckoned they could, but it went over budget and cost about $1200. So we ended up having to pay for it. And we were sort of mildly annoyed, but they did a great single, obviously. It’s just that at a time when you haven’t got much money and you’ve made an agreement that you don’t go over – but from their point of view, I don’t blame them, because they want to put a great record out. So it’s fine. But they didn’t do exactly what we asked them to do. But speaking on the band’s behalf I would say “Fuck you, mate, I’m going to do the best I can to make this record great. So they had these back up singers on “Leilani” – backup vocals – and extra drumming. They brought in a lot of extra people and took up extra time.

And certainly when I went up there was a lot of dope smoking going on. The producer had some hash he’d gotten from the Russian embassy. Afghani hash from the Russian embassy. This was when the whole Russian invasion of Afghanistan was going on. I remember him telling me about it. It’s funny the things you remember.

So there’s no animosity about it. The group put out this great fucking record – this fantastic record. And I’m very proud of that.

But all of our records we did as handshake deals and put them out as one offs. Because we weren’t a record label as such that needed to sign bands for some period of time to recoup all of our money. We paid royalties from the very first record sold. If you sold seven records, you got paid for seven records. We didn’t even know that you could recoup any pressing costs. Didn’t even know it. We thought, you do the right thing, you make your money from your profit. But we never really made any money. The Sunnyboys record we sold about two and a half thousand of, and the Machinations seven inch we sold about two or three thousand of that. So we did make some money, but nowhere near enough to cover all the other releases we put out. Like the Dead Boys, we must have lost shitloads on. Sold three hundred copies, lost 500. Never got paid for them.

Another one I wanted to ask you about was the Kelpies, because that band is very different from other Phantom groups.

Ahh! The Kelpies were a part of the whole new Sydney punk scene, and to this day, apart from Radio Birdman, my absolute favourite live band that I’ve ever seen …never seen a band as good as them live. Just phenomenal! Absolutely stacked with melody and with so much bloody ferocity as well, you know? But not just like hard core thrash – an incredible band. They’ve reformed twice, and I’ll just drop anything to see them. They’re one of the few bands that when they reform are as good as they were in the beginning. Ashley Thompson was their drummer…

Yeah, you must have seen that big interview I did with Ashley on my website.

Did you? I should look at that. Anyway, I used to know all the punks, because we sold a lot of punk records. And a lot of them became good mates, because they were good people and they came in the shop all the time. They were friendly with us. And they’d say “oh, you’ve gotta go see the Kelpies, they’re a great band”. And all the Aberrant bands – Bruce Griffiths used our address always, for the entire time they existed, from the word go right to the very end – he used our PO Box.”

Didn’t Waterfront do that, too?

They shouldn’t have! (laughs) No, they didn’t.

I remember there being several labels using that same address.

Well, they may have at the very beginning, because Steve … he might have for the first couple of releases, because he certainly worked in Phantom while he had three or four Waterfront releases. I would have let him. He probably did. Is it on one of their records?

I think so…

It probably is. I wouldn’t be surprised. It makes sense. That’s what I would have done.

Kelpies, yeah … so I went to this gig, and first it was this big punk gig at Paddington Town Hall. And I was almost out of my depth, because it was all full on punks. It wasn’t just like Birdman lovers or something like that. It was fucking punks and no one else. Skinheads and all sorts of across the board punkettes. I was like 29 or 30 by then, and they were all like 16 or 18, so I felt quite old even then. But I loved them. And my girlfriend loved them, too. And they played these gigs over at Mosman, and we used to travel anywhere to see the Kelpies. And she loved them as much as I did. It was great.

It’s too bad that there isn’t more better recorded material of theirs around. There’s that lp Aberrant put out from a rehearsal tape, but that’s it.

One of the great travesties … they did virtually all originals apart from “Brand New Cadillac” and maybe one other, but none of those are really available. Well, there’s the Aberrant compilation. “Truro Murders” was a great song. One of them appeared on the Soggy Porridge record – they did a couple of Kelpies songs. “How Can I Tell You”, perhaps? That was an incredible song. They didn’t have a bad song. Their entire gigs were just amazing. I absolutely loved that band, and I can’t go on enough about how great that band was live. And, they were great when they did their reformation gigs, eight years later and again about 12 years later. Just phenomenal.

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