The Screaming Jets

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It is fair to say that Australian rock wouldn’t be the same today if it wasn’t for two acts that were born in the same year of the last century.

The Screaming Jets and Baby Animals both gave birth to their infectious brand of Aussie rock in 1989, breathing life and fresh air to a scene that had become increasingly stale.

While both had their own musical agendas, neither conflicted with the other, and even early on in their respective careers, the two bands played with and toured together, with both etching their own significant marks on the musical landscape.

Now, 28 years later, the two stalwarts are joining forces again on the ‘They Who Rock’ tour, kicking off on June 2 at Castle Hill and winding its way around the whole country, before finishing in Chelsea Heights on July 8.

“Way back in the day, the Baby Animals and the Jets toured together right back when they started their careers,” recalled Screaming Jets guitarist, Jimi ‘the Human’ Hocking.” It was a bit before my time – I joined in 1993 – so it was more like 1989, 1990, like the very first years of the bands. There’s been a lot of years go by since those days but we got together at Hope Rocks on the same bill as Mossy and a few others on the central coast last year, and it was just good to catch up with everyone. I knew Suze DeMarchi (Baby Animals vocalist) from before I was in the Screaming Jets when she first came over from Perth when I played with the Angels, so we all had that connection and it was good to catch up. It was kinda like, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to do a tour together to commemorate that very early tour?’ So it was part nostalgic, and part a good idea; and that was how it was birthed.”

The tale of the two bands goes back even further still, with Hocking throwing a surprise twist into the relationship.

“When the Baby Animals first hit the scene in Australia, they did their first tour with the Jets and a band called the Degenerates,” he recalled, “and I knew all of the bands back then. I wasn’t in the Jets at the time but I had a band called Jimi the Human and Spectre 7 in Melbourne, and, in actual fact, when the Screaming Jets first came to Melbourne they opened for me, so that’s how I met them. And when the Baby Animals first came to Melbourne, they also opened for me: so I was like the little local legend in Victoria and nowhere else (laughs). That’s how I met a lot of people in those days but there was a whole swag of us coming through the scene in the very late ‘80s and early ‘90s. [Johnny] Diesel and Nick Barker and the Reptiles and bands like that were all in the same age group, so most of us have stayed friends pretty much all this time. So when the Baby Animals did their first show with the Jets and did some shows with me in Melbourne, they got picked up to do their own tour in the States and they pretty much took off pretty quickly so we didn’t really see a lot of them for a while. Then, of course, Suze famously married Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme) and was living in America so apart from bits and pieces we didn’t see a lot of them for a while.”

That one band can still be a draw card after a quarter of a century is testament to the quality of the music, but when you consider both bands are still headlining acts in their own right, it raises the question of just what is it that keeps the fans coming back.

“Well, let’s hope they come back!” Hocking laughed. “So far this tour is already selling out. We’ve already sold out one of the Adelaide shows and one of the Melbourne shows, so it’s doing really well without even playing a note. I think we’re living in a period where a lot of these – as I call them – ‘heritage’ rock bands are going back on the road, like ourselves, and it’s because there’s not a lot of new bands getting support out there in TV and the media, especially. I’m talking about these singing shows that are on when I say that and I think we’re more tried and true. People like to go and see their favourite band and a lot of people from my generation probably got married when they were younger and had some kids and now their kids are older so they feel like they can go out again and they are going to see their old favourite bands again now that the kids are 15 or even 20 years old and they came take them with them. There’s kind of like a second wave happening and because there’s a good touring circuit that’s opened up as a result of some of those big festivals there’s a lot of good acts back out on the road.”

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As far as front men in bands go, Dave Gleeson from the Jets is as zany, unpredictable, and entertaining as they come, with even Hocking admitting to not ever being sure just what will happen when Gleeson gets behind a microphone.

“I’m going to say yes, he is just as crazy off stage as on,” he laughed. “The thing I love about Dave is he is what you see, and what you see is what you get. Dave will say things that are completely off colour… we’ve been friends for many, many years and we don’t always agree on everything and that’s the beauty of our friendship. We don’t have to be completely and utterly in agreement all the time about everything. We’ve had our arguments and I think you know you’re really close with someone when you can have a blowup or a disagreement and it doesn’t affect your relationship. He often walks close to the edge, but he always comes back, as well. After a show, he’ll say to me ‘Oh, shit, what did I say (about whatever it was), do you reckon that was a bit much?’ and I will say, ‘Yeah, man, I think it was’ (laughs) but that’s just what happens.”

 

After almost living on their reputation for the last decade, the Screaming Jets hit back emphatically with last year’s Chrome, a rock album that not only harked back to their music from the All For One era, but also had enough in the way of diversity to prove that the Jets will never be a band that just lives in the past.

 

“That’s anybody’s guess. Who knows?” Hocking replied as to why Chrome was such a massive hit for the band. “Is it timing? What is it? From the inside and my experience, I thought a lot of things came together all at once, but one of the things it is is a good record. I remember… Scam was a good record and I think the band has made some good stuff in my absence (Hocking left in 1997 and returned in 2009) when Izzy [Osmanovic, guitar] was playing but I think that Paul [Woseen, bass] really produced a bunch of good songs this time, and when we went into the studio to make the record, the thing that was exciting was how good a headspace we were in as a group. We were really on a positive. The gigs had been going well, we had sorted out any problems that we had in the past inside the lineup, and I think we felt so good that it came across on the record. And to couple that with Steve James coming back to the production seat – for my money, he’s always been the best producer for the band – and it was kind of like getting the old recording team back together, and because the gigs had been in a good place and the bands headspace was in a good place, I think it really filtered through with that vibe. Maybe I sound like an old hippy when I say that but it kind of felt that way (laughs).”

 

There was an eight-year gap between Chrome and the previous album Do Ya?, and another eight years between that and Scam, so the question is, will there be as long a wait to hear the follow-up to Chrome’?

 

“No, no, there will definitely be another eight years, don’t you worry,” joked Hocking. “There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in the world of a band in those years off, and things aren’t always so peachy. There were financial issues, there were line up issues, and all that kind of stuff. We’re a classic rock and roll story – there’s no doubt about it – but if I look to the future, I can see us making a record in the next year or two because we’re still really in a good place. We’re enjoying working together. I think the new record won’t be a far off idea. We’re just enjoying being in the band. We’re enjoying life on the road, so that’s kind of the proof in the pudding.”

 

Written by Kris Peters

 

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Written by Dave Griffiths

Dave has worked as a music & film journalist for over 20 years now. Aside from Heavy he does radio and various podcasts as well. He is the proud owner of Metal Cat.

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