Star Scene: Brian Cadd

Brian Cadd is a legend of the Australian music scene. He spoke to What’s My Scene on the end of his current tour, just before embarking on this year’s APIA gigs. 

So there’s an awful lot to talk about with you at the moment. Let’s start with your current tour. That’s nearly over.

Yeah, it’s over. It finished on Saturday night in Darwin. The night before we did the Tanks in Cairns, which is the most extraordinary venue I think I’ve played in years and years and years. It’s actually, during World War Two, they built all these giant cement tanks. I mean, each one would be as big as two houses.

And they had them up on the hill, and they had a gravity fed system which sent gasoline down to the war ships in the Darwin Harbour. That’s how that all works, and God knows. Anyway, then the War finished and everything went on for sixty, seventy years. Finally somebody said, “Why don’t we do something with them?” They’re obviously amazing, they’re just gorgeous. So they’ve now converted all three of them into different entertainment spaces.

It’s a great idea. And what’s really good about it is they’re completely round, which means from a sonic point of view they’re stunning, really. We had a great time. But the tour’s over now, two and a half months–getting long for an old duck, but there you go.

Let’s talk about the Apia tour, because that’s the next big thing you’re embarking on. How many of those have you done now?

This will be my third.

I think only Joe Camilleri has probably done more than that. He’s been on nearly all of them, I think.

I don’t know how he keeps getting on em all the time. I mean, he must know somebody. He loves em. We all love em. I mean, I think it’s a fairly coveted thing to get from now on, because there’s just enough of us oldies left that we can kind of get on every couple of years or so. And the audience is really seriously targeted, you know? There won’t be any eighteen year olds. They’ll all be forty plus, I’d imagine. Have been every time I’ve done it. And they’re really staunchly our audience from back when. The things sell out. Most of the major ones sell out almost instantly, because these people by now, after ten years or whatever it’s been, they would be dedicated followers now. They go to every one.

The terrific thing is that there’s probably a pool of twenty acts or so who really fit that bill. And so over the course of a few years, you might get–I think my first one was about six years ago, and then three years ago, and now. So presumably that’s the rotation time.

The thing that I’ve liked about the ones I’ve seen is how much fun you guys all seem to be having together.

That’s gonna happen, because we all basically grew up together. There’s a couple of younger acts, I’d say Katie and Jen the bull sisters would be more eighties, and Joe would be late seventies. But all the rest of us are serious seventies and sixties. Russell and I have known each other since we were twenty. You get to that stage of relationships where it’s just a camaraderie. Or Camilleredrie. From the moment we gather in the foyer in the morning to travel to the next gig to get to the next gig, to do the soundcheck, to do dinner, to do the show, to having drinks after…it’s just hilarious. It’s just full on all the time. And that’s because for us, it’s just like being on a camping trip with old mates. It’s people you’ve known all your life and suddenly you get to go out on the road for a month and it’s just the most fun you can have.

That’s also because we’re very focused as a show on the audience, because they’re exactly our audience. So it’s not like we go out every night and have to say, “I’m gonna go out and sell you tonight, on the idea, because I’ve got a whole bunch of reggae songs you’ve never heard.” When Russell walks on stage, they pretty much know that it’s gonna be out of that row of hits, out of that bag of hits, and same with all of us. They’re not expecting any surprises and they don’t really get any, except that the end of the show is a bit more fun in the sense that we get to play with each other on songs. So it’s all of us on stage all of the time, and that can get pretty ratbaggy and funny. If there’s gonna be some really unexpected stuff go on, it’ll really be in that section probably.

How did the Woodstock thing come about?*

It really came about by way of Michael Lang, who I don’t know. We never met. But he was given a copy of the album, and he just took it away over the weekend and listened to it and played it and came back in on the Monday and said, “I really love this album. This guy’s gotta be on Woodstock.” And everyone was saying, “Who is he?” or like that. And he said, “Well he sounds like he should’ve been one of the singers in the band.”

And Woodstock needs memories of all that and I think it’s a great album, so we’re putting him on the show. So pow. There I was. And that’s exactly as much as I can tell you to be honest. I don’t know, I have no idea. I know I’m on the first day with Robert Plant and those guys but I can’t imagine I’ll be up there at that end of the show. But I’ll be wherever I fit, I suppose. But I know I am on the first day, out of the three days.

They’re having it at the Watkins Glen race track. It’s a massive place. Because of the production on each stage, they’ve gotta have pretty serious distances between the stages, otherwise everyone’s gonna hear everyone else’s show. So it would appear that you’d really be doing some fairly serious legwork just getting around all three stages. But–I don’t know, this is not something I actually know–but my guess would be that they’d probably curate it in such a way that there are a fair number of similar acts on at the same time on one stage. So for instance, if everyone was all, let’s say bluegrass–I don’t think there is bluegrass on there, let’s say it was three bluegrass acts–well they’d probably put them kind of together on one stage. Otherwise everyone’s gonna just spend their entire time running backwards and forwards between the three stages. It doesn’t make it much fun really, you know?

There’ll be people all the way up from the original hippies who were at the first one, all the way down to really–I think–I don’t think it’ll be really really young kids. Unless their mums buy them a ticket, because it’s not going to be inexpensive to go. But there will be youngies; twenties and eighteens and whatevers, all the way through to eighty and death. It’s a pretty magnificent task, isn’t it? To put all those varied acts together in such a way that all of this enormously varied audience will all get what they came for.

Let’s talk about your songwriting. You’ve had a lot of songs of yours covered by other artists. Is there a particular favourite that you’ve got that someone else has done?

Oh, God, that’s hard. They’re almost like little kids, you know, like your kids, and they go out and someone dresses them in something else. I don’t know whether I would’ve used that colour or whatever, but basically you still love em. I suppose maybe one of the most perfect records was a song that only ever got on a B side, which I wrote to The Pointer Sisters and they recorded half an album which was all real RnB and then they changed producers and the other producer wanted it to be all pop. That was the album that featured Jump and had a bunch of top hits. So when they looked at all the early stuff which included my song, they said, “Oh well, it won’t really fit. So we’ll just use all the pop ones.”

So my publisher rings me and says, “I’ve got some bad news, you’re not on the album.” But at that point, everything’s–well–“Next.” You don’t worry about those things. Anyway, about a month later he rings and says, “I’m not sure whether this is gonna cheer you up or not, because I don’t know what the other one is.” But he said, “You’re on the back of the next single.” And I said, “Oh well, we’ll be the B side of whatever the next single is.” Turns out that the next single was Fire, which was absolutely massive. Springsteen song. It was just a gorgeous record. But because they pay you the same for the B side as they do for the A side, it may be one of the most successful recordings of one of my songs ever that nobody’s heard.

I thought that the record that they made of the song was really really right on. It was exactly right on. So over the years I suppose there’s been a number of those. But that’s one that I really liked. Incidentally, a couple of weeks ago Bonnie Tyler released her new album, and one of the songs on my new album, Slow Walk; she recorded it and it’s out too. So it’s doing the rounds around Europe first, I think, and America next. So that’s sort of a wonderful thing to happen at my age.

It’s a great album. I actually got to sing on the track of mine. I sang harmonies on it. She’s a great gal. We met years and years and years ago when she had the It’s A Heartache album, and I had a song on that album. How’s that for a lucky ride. I had a song on that album. So we became friends. Anyway when she put this album together they asked me to submit a couple of songs, and I submitted a couple and she did that one.

It’s a really great recording. Alright, if I had to answer the question again, I would say maybe The Pointer Sisters and Bonnie Tyler.

When you’re not on the road, what’s your favourite thing to do?

You spend your whole life on the road. But if I do, I usually like to go to Paris. It’s one of my things. Two weeks is as good as two months for me, I just adore it so much. I could never live there, but it’s wonderful to go there. I enjoy doing that, and part of the reason I enjoy that is cause I’m a history buff. I never studied it at all, I didn’t last at school for very long before I was on the road. But over the last twenty or thirty years I’ve become more and more interested in what they would call modern history I guess, and in particular European history. So I’m more likely to be curled up with some kind of a book about Charlemagne or someone. If I’m not doing that then I’m probably out at a restaurant eating something fabulous.

NOTE: Since this interview the Woodstock festival has been postponed. We’ll post more info as it comes to hand. 

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