Friday, October 8, 2010

Interview with Hoodoo Gurus

A version of my story appeared in the North County Times and can be viewed at the link below. Photo courtesy of Conqueroo PR. The band appears live at the Belly Up in Solana Beach on Tuesday and the Viper Room in West Hollywood on Sunday.

Dave Faulkner believes the latest Hoodoo Gurus album “Purity of Essence” stands up to any new band’s debut release.

“It has a real freshness that doesn’t feel jaded or worked over. The songs feel spontaneous and bursting with ideas, which is what first albums [should] always have – a bit of sparkle in the soda pop,” said the Gurus’ founding singer/guitarist, while on tour in France.

Indeed, the veteran Aussie alt-rock band’s ninth studio effort finds the musicians sounding rejuvenated after 2004’s uneven “Mach Schau.” Adopting a more eclectic musical mindset definitely helped.

“The previous album, which we love, was very meat and potatoes rock ‘n’ roll. There were some subtleties in there that unfortunately got lost in the production. So we were conscious about not letting it happen again. We really wanted to make a more open and inviting album, but not narrow our focus down to any particular genre. We just let the music takes us where it did.”

Longtime studio associates Charles Fisher and Ed Stasium helped guide the quartet through a rousing journey of garage rock, power pop and beyond throughout “Essence” (the title comes from 1960s flick “Dr. Strangelove”).  

“He’s very good at diffusing pressure and has a very sardonic wit that’s gentle, but pops people’s pretensions,” Faulkner said about Fisher. “You don’t get too wound up in your own trips."

From the hard charging opener “Crackin’ Up (the result of a fruitful dream: “thanks to the sandman for that”) and Stones/New York Dolls-influenced “What’s In It For Me” (“one of the most rock ‘n’ roll things we’ve recorded”) to “1968” (a homage to the Stooges and MC5), the excellent hour-long collection should satisfy longtime fans.

“After awhile, we know people get pummeled with too many songs and everything becomes dull,” admitted Faulkner. Yet this one “wasn’t overstaying its welcome. It was still bouncing along like a party album to me.”

The upbeat, brass infused “Burnt Orange” wouldn’t be out of place at your next shindig, the punchy funk/rock of “Only in America” mixes horns, prominent female backing vocals and a wicked guitar solo by Brad Shepherd, and “I Hope You’re Happy” has spiritual undertones.    

“I have a fairly broad appreciation of music. People think the Hoodoo Gurus are a one genre band, but if you look at our record collections, they’re incredibly diverse. I love [hearing] different flavors in other people’s music.”

Formed in 1981, the Hoodoo Gurus immediately stood out from the new wave pack, thanks to an unusual early configuration (three guitars/no bass) and an affinity for trash pop culture lyrical and visual references. They shared a stylistic kinship with groups like The Cramps and Fleshtones, but were far more pop-oriented. 

Over here, the Gurus gained a cult following due to steady touring and support from college radio, where the first four CDs - starting with 1984 classic “Stoneage Romeos” - topped the chart. Later that decade, modern rock stations finally took notice and a pair of top five singles (“Come Anytime,” “Miss Freelove ‘69”) charted at the format.

The band, rounded out by drummer Mark Kingsmill and bassist Rick Grossman, continued to amass gold and platinum albums Down Under and tour Stateside occasionally, before splitting up in 1997. Reuniting in ’03, the Gurus finally played America again for the first time in 13 years in 2007.

Faulkner said those concerts were like “getting your feet wet” and “we were very happy to see a warm welcome for us last time. We’re hoping those same people pull some other friends that will maybe check us out as well.”

This time, they’ll be doing smaller clubs; there are no plans for a return visit next year.

“Playing in front of an intimate crowd doesn’t change our show particularly…we play huge bloody outdoor festivals [in Australia, Brazil and the U.K.]. We’ve been doing it for such a long time in different circumstances that nothing really fazes us. If you’re going to ask any musician though, ultimately, it is nicer when you can see the whites of their eyes."

For more info on the band, go to:

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