‘That’s my Sgt Pepper bogan!’: Hoodoo Gurus’ Dave Faulkner on his return | australian music
Jhere’s a moment at the start of the Hoodoo Gurus’ new album, Chariot of the Gods, where Dave Faulkner sounds like he’s stuck in the corner of a bar. You can hear the clink of glasses and the buzz of a crowd, chattering over Faulkner as he strums one of the Gurus’ classic hits, Come Anytime.
At first, it sounds like a throwback to (Let’s All) Turn On, the opening track from the band’s 1984 debut album, Stoneage Romeos. This too was released with a snippet of cocktail bar sounds, before the band launched into a rock’n’roll manifesto: “Shake Some Action, Psychotic Reaction, No Satisfaction, Sky Pilot, Sky Saxon, c’ is what I like! ”
But no, says Faulkner: he was thinking of the Beatles. “What I was thinking was at the beginning of Sgt Pepper, when the orchestra warms up and you hear the crowd settle into their seats. It’s obviously meant to be a theater – it’s a slightly muted, carpeted sound with plush seats. That’s my Sgt Pepper bogan!
He hadn’t even linked to (Let’s All) Turn On. Maybe it was unconscious. His real intention, he says, was to get rid of the idea that he is now washed up: to sing old tunes to an indifferent audience, more than 40 years after the band’s rocky beginnings under the exotic name The Hoodoo Gurus. in Sydney.
Success and acclaim came early for the band, whose roots were in garage rock, psychedelia, pop culture and cashmere. During the 1980s and early 1990s, Faulkner wrote one of Australia’s great songbooks, with hits including Bittersweet, Like Wow – Wipeout!, What’s My Scene and Miss Freelove ’69.
They broke up for a while in 1998, got back together and did Mach Schau in 2004. Although the Gurus continued to play, new recordings became rare. Purity of Essence was the band’s last full album, in 2010, followed by an EP, Gravy Train, in 2014, after which drummer Mark Kingsmill left the band.
Faulkner says Kingsmill having one foot in and the other out of the band for years put a damper on recording, and after he left the band were unsure whether to continue. “It was the same four people since Rick [Grossman, bass player] joined the band in 1988. I thought if one of us left we would break up the band.
For five years, Faulkner reviewed albums in the Saturday Paper, following a lead laid by Robert Forster of the Go-Betweens, who had done the same for the Monthly. But Faulkner found that criticism was not conducive to songwriting. “You know that phrase, dancing like nobody’s watching? You have to write songs like no one is listening,” he says.
Making a solo album didn’t sit well either: indeed, Faulkner remains one of the few great Australian songwriters of his generation who never did. “There is no burning need. I’ve never really been comfortable with the idea of being a leader, I just see myself as the lead singer of the band. It’s like a safe space for me.
He doesn’t rule it out, if only because, he says, he’s more comfortable with himself than he ever was, at 64. But two things push him back to the Gurus. The first: why work with mercenaries when you already have a phenomenal group behind you? “I see the group as a sports car; the songs are just the fuel,” he says.
The second reason, he admits, is that he is “a bit of a procrastinator.” There was no stock of songs to fall back on while the band lay fallow. “What I accumulate are ideas,” he says. “I’ll get my iPhone when I’m out on a morning walk and a riff comes to mind, or a tune, and I’ll sing it into the phone and store it in a file somewhere.”
Eventually the band found their feet again with a new drummer, Nik Rieth, who had played with Australian punk originals Radio Birdman and the Celibate Rifles. The addition of Rieth prompted Faulkner to flesh out the songs, gave the band a new soul, and “brought out qualities in my songs that were unusual to me”.
Four singles preceded Chariot of the Gods: Answered Prayers, released in late 2019, followed by Get Out of Dodge, World of Pain and Carry On, with the rest of the 14-track album (17 tracks on the vinyl edition) recorded. later . Only one song is old: Settle Down, which was written in the early 2000s, during the Mach Schau era. Ironically, Faulkner says, “It was a song about being old and irrelevant, and I wrote it 20 years ago! I was probably already old and irrelevant then, in some people’s minds. I always told myself that I would never write songs about aging, because I hate it.
And now he’s too old to care what other people think. “You get the clue very strong – it’s not even a clue! – that you are old hat and surplus to requirements. Like, what are you still doing to play and make records? he says. “It wasn’t until I broke up and all that stuff that I realized, of course, it was shit.”