Q&A: Dave Faulkner - Gurus, guitars and gabba gabba hey

Hoodoo Gurus | Image: Christopher Ferguson

Q&A: Dave Faulkner - Gurus, guitars and gabba gabba hey

Australian rock legends the Hoodoo Gurus will tour the country for the first time in two decades this year. What's Hot New Zealand talks to co-founder Dave Faulkner about his heroes, pet hates and where music comes from.

With all your awards and accolades, you've become Australian rock royalty, haven't you?

Royalty? I don’t know about that. It’s a bit like that saying about prostitutes and ugly buildings getting more respectable as they get older.

Are you looking out for the new ones coming through?

We've never really worried about anyone around us, whether they're new, older or whatever. Obviously we have our own heroes that we were influenced by that we're very keen to acknowledge when we get the opportunity. But as far as continuing the tradition, we hope we've had people that have used us as a guide post, just as others have inspired us along the way as well.

Who are some of your heroes?

I was a kid in the 60s, so that's classic Stones, Beatles, Easybeats, the Kinks. They all influenced me as a kid, and they're what I've taken with me all my life. Then when I became a teenager, I discovered hard rock – Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and things like that. Creedence Clearwater Revival, the glam rock era. I soaked it all up like a sponge.

You're obviously a fan of pop culture, B-movies and so on. Were you ahead of your time there?

I'm not sure about ahead of our time, just a product of our time. Both my parents worked so I was a latchkey kid. And so consequently I'd come home from school and on TV were a lot of old black and white sitcoms from the 60s but they were still being shown. We used to have back to back sitcoms on several channels. I'd watch McHale's Navy, Gilligan's Island or Lost in Space. That’s one of my favourite shows of all time.

It's like the comic book culture that The Ramones celebrated?

Absolutely. The Ramones were a big influence. I think of The Ramones as being one of the greatest bands of all time. There's this kind of teenage dumbness which can be very sophisticated and clever and funny. And they really made it explicit. They had that deadpan sort of thing, which elevated the banal into the profound.

I mean, it was punk rock. The Ramones were the originators. They went back to concise pop music with catchy melodies, like The Beach Boys and so on. And they married it with a deadpan, disaffected suburban kid alienation. They were just the perfect band. And they took it away from this sort of pseudo classical, fantasy stuff.

I mean, I like all that stuff too, and you can appreciate it. But punk rock was like a Year Zero thing, where we suddenly just threw everything out to start again and build from the ground up. Yeah, but for example, I personally threw away a whole bunch of Elton John records and I had to re-buy them all later on because I realised I liked them.

You've worked on a few film soundtracks. Is that a way of doing different things?

The movie soundtrack thing was a very small dalliance. I got a bit disenchanted with it because I realised that they tend to shortchange the sound or the music budget. They'd rather spend more on catering. They expect you to do a lot for a little and so I couldn't be bothered with that.

It’s not about them wanting something loud and then something quiet. That's all right. It's just the fact that filmmakers sometimes have zero idea of music. We all think we have our taste in food, say, and we think the only food worth eating is the stuff we like. People are the same about music and they say this is great music and that's bad music.

I particularly remember one filmmaker who wanted me to write a piece of music that would give them the same feeling that they'd gotten on a piece of music they'd been listening to since they were 17. I said I'm sorry, I can't write a piece of music that you listened to on the beach while you were having sex or were at a party or whatever. But this person was convinced that if I put the notes in the right order that they would have the same emotional response as they had lived with for decades.

So that's the sort of mentality of dealing with people that think music is something quite specific that they can describe to you and that you can literally put the notes in the correct order like a scientific or chemical formula to give them the emotional reaction they expect. It's not like that. Music is something personal to everyone. There’s no given formula for it.

People decide themselves what they want to take on, you know? And I'm very happy to have that be the case, that people actually take a song and make it part of their experience and it becomes imbued with that, with their life experience and that makes it rich for them.

For example, a song of mine called “A Thousand Miles Away”. I've always thought it's funny that people take one meaning of it that is quite different to what I wrote the song for. Now I recognise that is what they take from it, which is missing home and company. But in fact, when I wrote, it was me writing about not really having any place I can feel settled and I've got to keep moving. I'm never happy in one place. That's what I was writing at the time, but the meaning that other people get from the song is actually very clearly in the lyrics as well. The lyrics have that flexibility to this day.

Playing live seems really important for you as a band.

We've always been strong live, that's been our whole raison d'etre since day one. We were very much an outsider band when we started. Everything around us was synthesizers and drum machines. And we were doing something so unfashionable, playing guitars and rock and roll. No one wanted to know about that. We didn't care. It just so happens that through sheer willpower, of playing to people, having people like us live, that it created the market for our music. And playing live has always been the most essential part of the bands we were raised on. That's what we love to do.

Is that what makes you still want to get up on stage in front of thousands of people?

Well, we just love playing music. It's not so much the thousands of people thing, although obviously that's financially beneficial. But we just love playing. I mean, I'm financially comfortable. I don't need to play to to pay the rent. It's because I just love music and that's how I express myself. It's hard to explain. The way I talk about it is, for most people they have five senses. But for me, music is another sense. And the only way for me to really be inside that sense is actually being an instrument myself and being on stage singing and playing guitar or whatever. By basically being completely immersed in the music. It's a different kind of swimming, you know, swimming in music.

What's the big difference between touring now as against the early days. Are the hotels better?

Oh, look, we haven't shared a hotel room for a very, very, very long time. That's probably why we can still talk to each other. And I'd rather be at home, no matter how good the hotel is. But we recognise and are more conscious now about the special magic that we have together, and that is something that we really prize. All of us are very focused on just playing the best show ever every time we play and that is something you can't fake. And I'm very glad to say that all four of us have the same kind of motivation. We're music nuts and we can't help it. We’ve just got to do it.

What’s your No. 1 festival hack?

Here's my answer as a punter, because I've been to many a festival. I'm a big fan of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which happens every year in April or May, and I've been a dozen times at least. My advice to people is really a strategy to get the best position to see and hear the music.

So if it's a really, really crowded venue, it's very hard to work your way up to the front from the back of the crowd because people don't want to let you through. They've been sitting on their position and they don't want to help someone else get it. So my advice is, you go all the way up to the front and to the side where you can't see the artist because you're basically at the fence. You can usually easily get to where the speakers are because no one wants to stand by the speakers. And then you work your way back at a 45-degree angle towards the centre. If you're going backwards through the crowd, you're going backwards, not in the front, and people will happily let you go past. And then eventually you can get to a point where you feel like this is a good viewing position and you pretend like you're looking around for someone else you've lost in the crowd.

The tip is going from the front to the back and people will let you through that way. They won't let you come the other way. They'll block you with their shoulders and act like you can't come through here.



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