What/Who made you first pick up a guitar and sing?
Nobody made me, but a well meaning uncle bought me my first guitar.
Back then with The Beatles cartoons and shows like The Monkees, if you could play a tune and sing it well enough, well … you got the girl. Sounds pre-historic, but attention from members of the opposite sex was the best entertainment going. Back then, no internet, Instagram etc. We did better without it.
How did Bigger Than Jesus eventuate for you?
There was a falling out with the original singer and consequently, a falling in with me.
X was out to stud. We weren’t getting along. BTJ was the perfect vehicle for me to ‘speak my mind’… brilliant musicians, funniest guys… I would have to say, it was meant to be.
You have a reputation as one of the most exciting and entertaining Australian bands. How would you describe your live shows to someone who was not fortunate enough to witness one?
That’s tough. You really had to be there. The music was driven and powerful. Very precise but still plenty of ‘feel’. We were very theatrical. Burning crosses, costumes, chain saws, magicians and big light shows. We were a cut above the average pub band. Irreverent, is a word that springs to mind. It was all about the show. The experience, as well as the music. We were rather political in our own way. Listen to ‘Congratulations’ …
Tell us an anecdote from the studio or on-the-road.
Hahaha … It literally was when we were recording ‘One For The Road. It started with the bass riff. By the time we were tracking we had kind of had enough of it and each other. We were pushing shit up hill. It was meant to be a ‘swan song” but ended up being the rebirth. Like the song itself. One For The Road’ that ended up with unforeseen complications. It was based on a true story.
How do you feel being referred to as a “living legend”?
Destined to die and just be a ‘legend’. I may as well have as much fun as I can.
Why did you decide to release One For The Road? How difficult was it to choose these six tracks? What are the stories behind some of the songs on One for the Road? Do you think the lyrics/music are still relevant in 2018? Which track were you most excited about publishing now and why?
I can’t speak for the musical composition, that was a band process. Trying out riffs and stuff. But once the sounds began to take form, it was easy for me to find the story within that needed to be told. For example ONE OF US was based on Todd Browning’s Freaks. I had a friend that really wanted to be accepted… I took her situation and put it in the Freak context and made it mean something … to me at least. ONE FOR THE ROAD was based on an experience I had back in my younger days. I SHOULD BE LAUGHING, I was going through a divorce and it simply tells the story… It is all real life stuff. WICKED LOVE was about obsession…NIGHT CALL was the only track not from those sessions. We put that on as a dedication to our original drummer Craig Whitelock. He died this year and we thought the song a fitting tribute. It broke our hearts, but such is life.
It’s all very real. I don’t just make up lyrics. It has to be real. How can it NOT be relevant? Things change, but not that much. The songs are about real people and real life situations. Of course it is relevant! No point releasing it if it isn’t. Political parties come and go – but interpersonal politics – they never really change. We all want to belong to someone or something. It’s the human condition. Movement!
How did you feel about the remastering of One for the Road by Gil Mathews at Aztec Studios? Did you have input in the process?
Gil is simply the best. He is in a class of his own. The only input I had was insisting it be him. You don’t have to tell him anything other than the track listing. He gave us his own test cut before we went anywhere near the pressing plant. Hank and I listened to it at 161 and it blew us away! Quite a rush! I get Gil to master everything I do. He has the best ears and he loves music.
What was it like getting the band together for rehearsals?
Hysterical. Absolutely hysterical. You have to be there. A more unlikely group of social misfits you’d be hard pressed to find. Somehow we manage to love and tolerate one another. Not sure if it’s a gift or a curse.
What were Craig Whitelock’s thoughts about the release and the gig before his passing?
He so much wanted to be part of it. He’d been ill for so long and seemed to be rallying. The plan was to get him up for as many songs as he could physically handle. Graig was our ‘little brother’ in so many ways. His passing was devastating, but in a way it gave us more to fight for. He was so excited about the whole thing. I still find it hard to accept he is gone.
Many, myself included, witnessed the unfolding of the Espy gig predicament through your updates on social media, and I must say, I really liked this part of your “sermon”:
The down side of social media. Public outrage over threat to a cultural heritage will get you 70 shares and hundreds of comments. Mediate a positive outcome for all parties involved, to actually make a stand and resolve an issue and you get 7 shares.
If we (Bigger Than Jesus) were looking for a P. R. gimmick we had a gift from heaven. But instead of manipulating sympathy we chose to help with ‘peace talks’ and brokered a win for the StKilda community ourselves and The Esplanade Hotel.
You were instrumental in the “peace talks”, were you positive going into these talks? How did you make it all work?
I was half of the peace talks, it takes two to tango. I was dubious… but yeah, I believed I could get through to them. I wouldn’t have bothered otherwise. Sounds kind of arrogant, but that is how I felt. We (the band) were ready to go to war. It reached out at the 11th hour and I wrote to them saying “it doesn’t have to be like this…” It started a chain of responses. So a meeting was called, I mediated for the band. Nothing I said was without approval of the band. I was the face, BTJ was the body and collective conscience. The Espy had their representative and same deal I guess…. it was just a matter of sitting down over a beer and talking. Honestly, at the time it seemed to take forever. It was insanely stressful. A very intense couple of days. But the guys trusted me and believed in the bigger picture. I wasn’t just about us, it was about everything music and different counter cultures have to offer. It was about the community… it was stupid that it got to that level. But what I said is true. We could have milked it for ourselves, we chose to make a stand for the community. If they don’t support the stance, well Community “as you sow so shall you reap”. lol… another sermon, but what is the point of being B.T.J if you have nothing to preach?
What do you think were the real reasons behind the Espy management’s initial decision and then concession?
Hmmm…Trying to please everybody. It is impossible. It’s a crazy world. You say the wrong thing and you can get some serious hate. I think they thought we’d offend someone and they would cop the hate. Ironically, they ended up committing the offence. But that is history. They were/are very sensitive about being ‘the new Espy’. They bought it but will never ‘own’ it. As was said to me, “we were so focused on the building, I guess we forgot about the people”. I think that says it all. I have heard a rumour that we will be the last rock band to play there … why do people say these things? Time will tell. If the people want it, they will get it. If they are content with a ‘social media win’ then it was all in vain. C’est la vie.
What can we expect from your upcoming show at the Espy? Will there be a burning cross, chainsaws, costumes, theatrics?
Hmmm… There will be light. There will be sound… and the thunderous pounding of drums. Guitars shall split the heavens… there will be theatrics, at least one costume…we are spending as much as we can towards the show. But some things, like chainsaws… the public liability is let us say, prohibitive. We really want to give as much as we can, but ultimately it is about the music. Having said that, it will be spectacular!
Will you have any special guests jumping on stage with you?
No. This is about the band and the music. As far as special guests go, that falls to our choice of support acts. We have invited Fenn and George Wilson to open for us. They represent youth and the future. Chris Wilson was slated to be one of the star openers (in his own right) for the Espy, but his illness made that impossible. The best way we, as friends and as a band, could address that, was by including his sons. We also have a trio of charming young women, Invictus, providing the main support – or appetizer. Music to soothe the savage beast.
You will have Pollyman supporting you, and I noticed how you seemed to take the boys under your wing at the recent Chris Wilson fundraiser – do you see yourself as a mentor as well as a friend? How important is it to nurture new talent?
Nurturing new talent is essential. It is a welcome obligation. That being said, I love Chris and Sarah. Their sons are remarkable. Talented and genuine human beings. Yeah, I truly believe we made a serious connection that night…
I’ve seen Fenn a couple and George a couple of times since, when I go to visit with Chris. I used to really liked Tiny Giants… and Fenn got up and played some blues with The Heinous Hounds one night. I will always be a friend to them. They are very tuned in and switched on young men. If I can help, or ‘mentor’ as you suggest, I certainly will. It would be an honour. It’s up to the young fellas, really. I doubt there’s much I could teach them given their pedigree. But I will always be there if they need me.
Are we going to be hearing any new tracks soon from the band?
Yes and no. This mini album was going to be the follow up to Killer Vision. But we kind of got at each other’s throats and it didn’t happen. They got shelved. It has never been released in this format. So it is old and new. Having said that, I have been presented with a whole slab of instrumental material by the guys; It is just waiting for lyrics … so yeah, sometime soon they just may be some very new stuff. Again, if the people want it, we will deliver it.
What is your “scene”?
My scene? Hahaha! Apparently, I’m a living fucking legend!! The rep (mediator) from the Espy said (and I quote) “Calling on you is like calling on royalty. I felt I should present a card or bow”, I kid you not. What do you say to that? Maybe I should buy a brace of Corgis…?
What is my scene? My scene is life. And music.
My scene is me and the Mrs, Joey Bedlam. We check out bands, young and old, DJs… we both love music. I don’t care if it is blues, psyche, punk, metal or folk, genres mean little. If it is good, if it is sincere, well… that is my scene.
Catch Steve Lucas and Bigger Than Jesus at the Espy – December 15th.
Tickets for Bigger Than Jesus at The Espy are $25.80 (incl. booking fee) on sale now through Moshtix.
“One For The Road” – available now through Dinner With Wolves – is a six-track white vinyl release featuring lost tracks from the Killervision sessions. Tracks include ‘One for the Road’, ‘Laughing’, ‘Just My Life’ and ‘Wicked Love’ and are accompanied by two further tracks written throughout Bigger Than Jesus’ reign. Order online here!
Connect with BTJ on Facebook
Bigger Than Jesus + DJs James Young & Mary Mihelakos (18+)
Saturday, December 15
Hotel Esplanade, 11 The Esplanade, St Kilda
Entry: $25.80 incl. bf; $30 on the door (if available)