Article by Mary Boukouvalas
Ben Watkins’ scene is Rock n Roll. This scene is unchanging for the Geelong-born Melbourne-based vocalist, guitarist and founding member of Warped. For 23 years Warped has been an evolving rock and roll animal.
The rock n roll scene has been an interesting one for Warped. Watkins describes the beginning of the band. Since Warped started “way back when we were 14, those days it was Cris Wilson on drums, and Darren Smallman. We used to hang out at a record store when we thirteen in Geelong called Caveman records. Dave Thomas from Bored! used to come in, and they were going to play a gig just going to Europe. He said: ‘If you get seven songs together you have got a gig’. Ever since we played, we were addicted to rock and roll”.
For regular Melbourne live music punters in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, seeing Warped play was as fundamental as having vegemite in the house and as common as being able to buy a beer at the pub.
Warped has produced a large catalog of music in 23 years. Starting out on the infamous Au Go Go label, Warped put out mini-albums and albums as well as a series of fanzines. A new home at Festival Mushroom Records produced the groundbreaking and long celebrated, and Watkins’ favourite, ‘On the Make’ album along with a handful of singles and videos. Several independent 7” releases, a picture disc, split 7”s and even limited press cassettes, saw the light of day. Countless bootleg and radio sessions live recordings exist, as do hundreds of hours of live video footage. Releases in Europe and Japan during the years came in many forms from many labels. A final album, “Quicker Ways to Blacker Eyes’ was released on Casadeldisco – and a new home was found at Shock. Often noted as their best album, it has received wide spread airplay and praise as an Australian Rock and Roll album to be put on the shelf with the greats.
Over the years, Warped has shared the stage with many international acts. Amongst others, they include Dinosaur Jnr, Fugazi, Henry Rollins, Audioslave, The Melvins, Dick Dale, Nebula, The Backyard Babies, The Hellacopters, The Distillers, Andrew WK, Fu Manchu, The Dwarves, The Donnas, but by far the most important and cherished memories are the times they shared the stage with bands and friends like Bored!, the Cosmic Psychos, the Dirty Lovers, the Onyas, Powder Monkeys, The Hard-Ons, The Meanies, Magic Dirt, Spiderbait, Legends of Motorsport, Dern Rutledge, Further, The Nation Blue , Tumbleweed, and The Mark of Cain.
Watkins has many stories of his rock n roll scene. It is akin to Aussie rock history.
“I met Ron Asheton from The Stooges,” he starts. “I was introduced to him, and he asked us to play ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ but Cris didn’t want to because I didn’t know how to play it properly. But I didn’t care”.
“One time,” Watkins continues, “we played Livid Festival, and at the after party, I gave the drummer with a Mohawk a scruff up coz I didn’t like it, it was a FauxHawk and I got kicked out. Then, in Japan, we went to play spin the bottle with a couple of Japanese girls but it didn’t work out; kind of got lost in translation”.
Stories on hold for a while but not completed. Though Watkins has been in the merchant navy for eight years, right now he is in the fortunate position where he is his “own boss and can book tours around [work]”. So, rock n roll it is. Watkins continues: “The last two years we have played heaps, we’ve played at Meredith, we’ve played with Helmet and Melvins. We reformed about 6 or 7 years ago. We broke up in 2003, and then we played once or twice. Everyone was off having kids, and I was away at sea. But now we are playing regularly; it sort of works out that we can do it. We played Geelong a few weeks ago with Hits and The Oblivians, after Golden Plains, and we played with The Meanies at Phillip Island for The Thin Green Line Benefit”.
Though touring is first on the agenda, Watkins hopes that Warped will record again soon. “We are playing all the time now. Starting to get new stuff into the set. We kind of want to record something in the next few months. We are going to jam this weekend and it is dedicated to writing new songs”. Thematically the new songs will not be alienating Warped fans.
“There is this one song we really want to get down. It’s about going out on a Friday night and having a good time”.
The scene hasn’t changed. The stories, and the rock n roll, are bound to continue for Watkins and Warped.
Rock on with Warped at Cherry Rock, Sunday 10th May.
More info here!