Rose Tattoo

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Listen to ROSE TATTOO while you read.

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For forty years now Rose Tattoo have been synonymous with Aussie rock and roll.

Their front man Angry Anderson epitomizes the spirit and fight of the working class Australian and through songs such as ‘Bad Boy for Love’, ‘Rock n Roll Outlaw’, ‘Nice Boys’ and ‘Scarred for Life’ the band have embedded themselves in the very fabric of Australian music.

Put simply, Rose Tattoo symbolize everything that is Australian and with the recent release of their live album Tatts : Live In Brunswick, a new generation of fans can listen first hand to music produced from an era that shaped the future of the industry in this country.

“There is a very valid reason why we chose to release a live album from this era,” explained Anderson. “We’ve never really been big on releasing live albums because I think releasing a live album is like a farewell tour or a comeback tour – you should only ever do it once in your lifetime. Live albums are relevant to a timeframe which brings me to why release this one from 1982 and there’s several good reasons. The first – and it’s rather romantic – is that it is an album that was lost but then found (laughs). There was boxes of tape found in a warehouse and we knew through the memories of several present and past members that there was several recordings done live in this collection. We transferred it onto hard drive and this album was among those recordings. We knew these tapes existed we just didn’t know where they were.”

“Around the same time I was dealing with Mark Alexander – Erber from Golden Robot Records and he is passionate – as passionate as any of us players – about music and he loves Aussie music,” he continued, slightly off in a tangent. “When I first met him we were talking about a solo album for me because the Tatts are over pretty much. When I say over I mean one of our key personnel, Paul DeMarco, our drummer, is still in jail. After Mick Cocks died in 2009 I sat and thought that was it. I’d had enough of death to start with. All of my ex band members were dying almost yearly and I thought it was time to retire the band and put it off the road. I made Pete Wells a dying promise that we’d never finish the band but we would be more like a phantom that could re – appear at any moment so I didn’t officially fold the band up, it was more I said the band is gonna stop playing. The thing that really brought this album back for me is it was a certain line up which is a key feature. Robin Riley, the guitar player in it, he’s still alive but he has his own battle with cancer. He’s holding his own so far but we’ve got our fingers crossed. Geordie Leach, our bass player, he’s still alive as well. Dallas ‘Digger’ Royall, our drummer, was first to go in 1991 and then Wellsy in 2006. This album was recorded at an iconic venue called the Bombay Bicycle Club but it got burnt down and was renamed Bombay Rock but we first started playing live when it was called the Bombay Bicycle Club which I thought was one of the coolest names around. It relates to an era. There was about four or five other live albums on that hard drive that weren’t recorded around the same time but we went with this one. They are all different line ups with different set lists so it will be relevant to release them periodically for the real staunch fans to have because they will, in a sense, document the bands history. We are yet to find an album that is good enough quality to release pre 1982.”

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That was such an amazing gig. The tuning on the album 99% of the time is good. Unfortunately, if you listen to it as the album progresses over the night, you can tell that I’m drinking more and more (laughs) and you can tell I’m suffering the effects of having a great time let’s put it that way! Without being snobby talking about ourselves in the third person but this is an iconic Aussie rock band in full flight. It’s a terrific representation of Rose Tatts, and it’s a fucken great live album.”

As well as releasing the live album, Rose Tattoo will also be supporting Guns n Roses for the third time on their current Australian tour, with Anderson admitting the Tatts and the Gunners have a healthy relationship that stretches back many years.

“When we first met them way back when…,” Anderson recalled, “I’m actually not sure exactly when (laughs) because there’s several different stories about how and why and when we first met them and those sources are probably more accurate than mine! (laughs). But I remember we were touring over there in the early 1980’s and Guns n Roses were still a fledgling band. They were very young and were what we used to call ‘hair bands’. The glam bands at the time in America were bands like Motley Crue and Cinderella and they would tease their hair and wear make – up and women’s clothing and I remember going to see a bunch of them while we were there. Some of them were really good rock bands – of course the top of the heap became the mighty KISS – and the good thing about KISS was they went full make up and you didn’t even know who they were! Instead of going glam they went the other way which is why I think they worked. Even though the whole glam thing worked for a lot of bands KISS went metal and they dressed as a metal band which was fantastic. When Guns n Roses first became aware of Rose Tattoo as fans they were heavily influenced – as were so many other American players including bands like Metallica – by the Australian rock sound. Most musos look further afield than their own backyard for sounds and influences to hear what people in other parts of the world are doing and what happened was the Gunners were looking for something that was not run of the mill or what everyone else was doing and they came across this crazy band called Rose Tattoo from a crazy place called Australia who in their own words played like no – one else. They were influenced by our sound but they also loved The Angels and AC/DC and the one thing all of those bands have in common is they all belonged to the same label which was Alberts. With touring with the lads and in all of the years we’ve been close and great friends we’ve talked about those early days and they said what mesmerized them; what fascinated them was the way the Alberts could record a rock band like no – one else in the world and have it frighten the fucken shit out of you as Slash once said. He said what they were hearing on record really excited them and the bands sounded so frightening in the way they did their sound and it was because Alberts didn’t pretty up everything.

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“In America, by way of explanation, I did an album years ago called Blood From Stone which the ‘Bound For Glory’ single came off and it was a big hit for me as a solo artist and it sounds like a record made in Las Angeles because it was. It’s a way of describing the different techniques between recording. Alberts recorded their bands with as little frills as possible, knowing full well, as we all do, that you can’t record or reproduce what’s live in the studio. It’s in the studio so it contradicts itself. What you have to do is get down on tape as close to the live essence as you can knowing that you are working with those restrictions so instead of letting the restrictions of the studio work against you George Young and Harry Vanda were very clever in that they used it to their advantage by getting huge drum sounds and huge guitar sounds but they really isolated the vocals. They created some of the best recordings ever made and the bands in America were just fucken blown away by how good our bands sounded. It was easy then for them to take the influences and use them. Now, with Rose Tattoo of course, they not only took the influences of the sound but we were the one band that they wanted to look like as well. They didn’t wanna look like The Angels or AC/DC or KISS or whoever but they looked at Rose Tattoo and they thought yeah, that’s our look. The bad boys, the tattoos, the rock and roll sphere so to speak. Slash and Axl – to their credit – have always acknowledged Rose Tattoo as their greatest influence because they were influenced by others with sound but it was us they took the image from.”

With forty years of music under his belt, Anderson admits that occasionally nostalgia gets the better of him and when he gets the time to look back on his career he does so with pride.

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“I’ll be entering a new phase or era of my life next year because it’s a milestone birthday but I think at our age, even blokes that are younger –my band that is going to play under the flag of Rose Tattoo for the GNR shows is my band The Angry Anderson Band and they are all younger blokes than I. They are in their 40’s and they are starting to reflect on their own musical career. Since they’ve been associated with me they have started to absorb my history and Rose Tattoo’s history in an effort to identify with the music they are playing. I think it’s only natural that people of my age with my experience and looking back at the experience of spending forty years with one band… I’ve been in Rose Tattoo longer than I was alive before the band (laughs). I have been the singer in Rose Tattoo longer than half my lifespan and that’s quite a significant thing. Yes, I have been reflecting in recent years and my only regret – people say do you wish you made it big like AC/DC and I would be lying if I said no – is I regret that Rose Tattoo didn’t become a bigger band but that was down to its own lifestyle and life force. It was the life it wished upon itself. It was a deeply troubled band as far as people in it went and it had its own problems so that never happened. The other thing to compensate that – and Pete took comfort in this because he was a very romantic rock n roll outlaw and he always had a romantic view on life – and he died knowing Rose Tattoo and the band he created not only influenced some of the great rock and roll bands around the world but we were also notorious for our live performances and for our recordings. It was great comfort to Pete that he died knowing that the band he put together and that we took to the world would be remembered for years and years and years to come regardless of the fact that we didn’t sell 10 million records. In other words, the effect that we had and the legacy we will leave is not about monetary gain or economic or material success. It was something far greater than that. It is spiritual and it’s about music and that’s the thing we always wanted to create was something that people would always remember.”

Written by Kris Peters

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