US punk bible, Flipside was dead right. The Hard-Ons did „deserve way more glory“. In fact a member of The Goo Goo Dolls thought they were basking in brilliant spotlights. „They must be huge in Australia!“ he gushed. „They’re probably driven around in limos right?“. Close. They once opened for Australian „mainstream“ act, The Hoodoo Gurus in Brisbane before 8,000 and received the sort of acclaim that they had been padding up for for years.
„After we played we thought we’d go out into the crowd and just mingle.“ Ray explained. „None of us thought we’d get recognised but we got mobbed! It was fantastic! I looked over and Keish had a big smile on his face. He yelled out, ‘Let’s just play these shows from now on!’“ Unfortunately that sort of scenario was the exception rather than the rule particularly in Australia.
Like The Stooges, the Hard-Ons were too raw, too earthy and way too honest in their representation of real rock n’ roll youth culture for most folks. And when it seemed that the world might have finally closed the distance between them the Hard-Ons were no longer comfortable with themselves and were wrestling with the restrictions they had come up against in their decade long format.
Naturally, the fact that the band took deliberate steps not to take the conventional music industry highway didn’t help in their lack of mass appeal. They recorded themselves for themselves, promoted themselves and generally held the reins for the entire Hard-Ons machine through right down to cover art, choosing supports acts and pioneering the concept of all ages shows. It was an unswerving creed that virtually ensured their ostracism from the outset.
Nonetheless the Hard-Ons achieved all they possibly could and more within those self imposed confines.
Hard Hank Rollins raved about them on MTV in Europe and the Rollins Band’s soundman and fifth member, Theo Van Rock wore one of their shirts inside the slick of the End Of Silence CD. The Ramones and The Red Hot Chili Peppers specifically asked for the band as opening act for their respective Australian tours.
At their first show in New York Black Flag’s Chuck Dukowski and Greg Ginn, members of The Beastie Boys and former Dead Kennedy Jello Biafra (who called the band „trailblazers“) and kept them up until four in the morning turned up to see what the fuss was all about.
In the German equivalent of Neighbours one of the characters always wears a Hard-Ons T shirt and in one show suggested that his depressed mother come to a Hard-Ons’ gig to lift her spirits. In Spain fans are so fanatical they have Hard-Ons tattoos and once when the band arrived at a club in Madrid to be guest DJs for the night they found the place covered wall to wall with murals of Ray’s art work.
That art once managed to offend a member of Morbid Angel who didn’t appreciate the humour behind Ray’s piss take on the 666 configuration.
Sixties’ acid punk icon, Sky Saxon of The Seeds came to one of their US shows and asked if the guys would be his backing band on a forthcoming album.
Then there’s the one about a member of New Kids On The Block during their Australian tour seen leaving a Melbourne record store clutching a Hard-Ons’ CD.
And an American band called The Shitbirds who did a version of the Hard-Ons’ There Was A Time in Ronettes girl group mode. The singer’s boyfriend was the artist behind the Ren and Stimpy. Not a bad resume really.
Musically the Hard-Ons were Australia’s Sex Pistols, Kiss, Beatles, Motorhead, Beach Boys, Ramones and more in the space of any given show or recording.
They did for The Descendents in this country what Radio Birdman did for The Stooges and the MC5. And were wildly championing punk heavyweights, Poison Idea long before Pantera started delivering them royalty cheque thanks to the version of The Badge on the Crow soundtrack. Actually, one of the great fatsbys actually broke the springs in Ray’s car on one occasion.
They represented and advocated punk metal nearly a decade before the Epitaph label in the US was propelling bands like Offspring, Pennywise, Rancid, Down By Law and NOFX into the mainstream. The Hard-Ons were doing Green Day before Green Day could talk.
Throughout it all there was no stooping to pathetic unplugged albums, funk or big ballads. In fact the Hard-Ons made no concessions whatsoever to the sound of any particular moment other than rock n’ roll.
But when it all began there were no guidelines. There was nothing B.H. (before Hard-Ons) so they wrote their own manual.
„We had to follow formulas that were more obscure which was like reinventing things in a lot of ways.“ Ray recalled. „We used to say we were Motorhead playing the Beach Boys and no-one would believe it.“
„I think we really changed the way music was seen in Sydney,“ Blackie continued. „It was very proper. The punk thing was woeful. When it started off it was awesome with The Saints and Radio Birdman but by the time we were getting old enough to sneak into pubs there was none of that. It was revolting and there were so many rules. We thought fuck it! We’re going to do what we want to do! People couldn’t stand us! We used to jump around and that wasn’t allowed!“
While Blackie was a comic fan with tastes tending towards horror and science fiction it was the medium of television that turned him onto rock n’ roll in a major way. He saw The Sex Pistols doing Pretty Vacant on Saturday morning music programme, Sounds and his fate was sealed.
„I used to listen to AC/DC heaps but I used to think there must be something more than this. When I heard the Pistols the next day I went down to Anthem Records (in Sydney) and I bought the album and I asked the guy what else is good. He said the Damned and The Clash and I just freaked out. I went straight over to Keish’s place and said, ‘Look man, I wanna buy a guitar and form a band. He said, ‘What?’ I said, ‘Shutup! We’re forming a band.“
The bassless outfit with Blackie on guitar, Keish on drums and vocalist friend, Brendan Creighton who later moved to the Gold Coast and formed Thrust played their end of school party and provided a riotous taste of things to come.
„The cops came down and shut us off!“ Blackie said proudly. „Brendon went crazy and smashed up half the chairs in the place.“
The Ramones’ visit to Australia in the middle of 1980 cemented ambitions. Ray was only 14 at the time and his parents wouldn’t let him go to the Sundowner Hotel to see the band and wouldn’t allow him to take the train into the city to catch a show either. Blackie and Keish had similar problems when they wanted to see The Clash.
„We wanted to be punk rockers.“ Blackie recalled. „We didn’t want his parents to see so we had bags full of these jackets and chains and stuff and went around the corner of the street and put all these clothes on. Keish’s dad busted us.“
The future Hard-Ons all went to school together at Punchbowl. Ray who was a Kiss and Marvel comic maniac had a bass - a Gibson Grabber bass because Gene Simmons had one - but couldn’t play it. He went up Blackie and Keish one day and asked about their interest in the Sex Pistols and The Damned. That was that.
At the time Ray teamed up with them they went under the name of the Dead Rats but they changed it to The Plebs soon after.
„The Plebs didn’t really roll off the tongue as well as the Hard Ons because Plebs meant people without money like something from a Stranglers’ album, down in the sewer.“ Ray said. „Hard-Ons sounded a lot more appropriate at the time because we were 15 and it was a name that 15 years olds could relate to and would get up the noses of our parents and school teachers.“
Thanks to the encouragement of Rockmelon, Ray Hedhurst who was working at Phantom Records in Sydney at the time the lads got a head full of the first Stooges album and the delights to be had with garage punk hellorama were opened up for them.
„Why the Stooges sounded so great,“ Ray once told Juke, „Was even thought they were nicking bits off The Stones and everybody else, they played their music like they invented rock n’ roll. That’s why they inspired kids like us to get into bands and pretend that they too invented rock n’ roll.“
In February 1982 they got their first chance to prove it after being Hard-Ons for about a month.
„It was at a party at Keish’s house in front of a whole bunch of his relatives.“ Ray said. „I can’t remember how we went down. I don’t think anybody was taking any notice of us. Basically it was just really noisy and untogether. Punk rock! It was great! I reckon if you had that on video I reckon that would have been considered avant garde, almost psychedelic without meaning to be.“
The frenzied, Surfin’ On My Face 7“ EP was released in 1985 on the Vi-Nil label. Its 4 tracks were taken from a batch of 7 they had recorded. The other 3 found their way onto the final instalment of the Aberrant label’s excellent local punk compilations, Why March When You Can Riot?
Surfin’…which featured Ray’s first cover art was one of the biggest selling independent singles of the day with a chart position overshadowed only by Eastern Dark’s hold on the number one spot with Julie Is A Junkie. The EP was later reissued on the Waterfront label.
The band’s all out assault on the community then began in earnest and the then painfully hip inner city crowd didn’t know what hit them when the terrible threesome dropped snot and sweat on their turf.
„We really hit a raw nerve with a lot of people.“ Ray said. „But at the same time we really got on the right side of the masses. We were hugely popular. You just didn’t see three guys who had all different skin colour from the westerns suburbs playing some kind of melodic punk rock. And the way we played was really destructive. We used to smash guitars and throw amps around and smash drums like The Who, that kind of energy. I think people really appreciated that kind of destructive presentation by three teenage guys who really weren’t old enough to be in a pub. And there was nothing like that around: the heavy metal guitar histrionics and all that noise and the solos mixed with sixties’ melodies and 1977 styled punk rock and hardcore.“
That smash it up mentality came to a head one night with the Psychotic Turnbuckles and some particularly arrogant roadies who worked for the Screaming Tribesmen.
„We just played the shit out of the guitars and drums.“ Ray beamed. „It was a free for all and at the end we just toppled every amp and all the drums. I’ve got the photos of it. We just pushed everything over and tried to even push the monitors off the side. I remember Blackie was bleeding and I was bleeding from my knuckles. It was one of the best gigs we ever played. We got canned but when you’re a teenager that sort of thing’s really good I think.“
In the early days the band’s snottiness and general belligerence landed them shows with punk bands like Melbourne’s Vicious Circle and Permanent Damage and Sydney’s notorious, Chaos and weren’t exactly made welcome by an audience whose idea of punk was short hair not shoulder length locks. Things got particularly heavy one night in Sydney when someone was stabbed with a drumstick.
But it wasn’t just the locals that felt uncomfortable about The Hard-Ons’ presence. Years after in Germany they were at the centre of a riot when Nazi skinheads started fighting and the police were brought in. On another occasion in Dublin Ray was pulled off the stage and beaten up by skinheads. Knives were thrown onto the stage and broken bottles flew everywhere. There was also an incident in Queensland when a huge skinhead threw a can at Ray. It bounced off his knuckles and Ray bravely growled back at his attacker.
„Live we’re three people obsessed with noise, obsessed with distortion. It was hard not to put on a hell bent sort of a show. In our early days every song would end with a rambling noise. The song would go for two minutes and the noise would go for half a minute. And when we played with very formulated, regimented metal bands they thought we were so punk for doing all this feedback and white noise. They thought that was the thing that made us punk. But we also had a secret weapon: song writing. We could construct pop songs. You can get songs out of all our albums and play them acoustically and they’ll still sound good. You couldn’t do that with Discharge or Motorhead or any of those bands.“
„Being misunderstood is half the fun.“ Ray once told B Side. „It’s such a shit stir. I mean, calling a band, The Hard-Ons. When you think about a hard on you think of big macho men with bulging muscles and a big hard on between their legs. We’re not a macho band. We like taking the piss out of macho people. In Punchbowl, where we come from, every second dude’s got a Ford Falcon with mag wheels and burns up and down the street impressing the girls…We’re not like them. We’re puny migrant kids into punk.“
Their first single proper, 1986’s Girl In A Sweater was produced by Rob Younger and marked the first of the band’s brushes with the sexist accusations due to the placing of Ray’s bass in the cartoon cover though the instrument was actually inserted into her stomach.
Like the subsequent 1987 eight track mini LP, Smell My Finger, Sweater… was released on the Waterfront label and quickly established Waterfront as the rock n’ roll label in the country.
In the US the two releases were combined as the Hard-Ons’ self titled album on the Big Time label and Girl In A Sweater was picked up for use in the soundtrack of the movie, The Allnighter.
Manager, Tim Pittman who had handled the affairs of the ill fated Eastern Dark began to do sound for the band from the night that Girl In A Sweater was released. Two weeks later at the trough in the toilets of western Sydney’s Seven Hills Inn, Blackie asked him if he wanted to manage the band. But no-one shook anything when the deal was done though…
The All Set To Go single followed that same year with Keish declaring „white folks suck“ from under the Klu Klux Klan getups the band were wearing on the cover.
In 1988 Hot For Your Love Baby, an 11 track album of rarities was released. In Europe it was packaged as The Worst Of The Hard-Ons on the Vinyl Solution label with All Set To Go added. Penthouse Pet Amanda Doe featured on the cover of the Australian version.
„Her mum worked at the University with me.“ Ray said. „I asked her mum for her phone number and we asked her to be on the cover. She came and saw us a few times and said she liked it.“
Also in 1988 came the Busted single which was backed with the live white noise anthem, Suck n’ Swallow which ended their shows for many years.
That same year also saw the release of the Dickcheese album which was available in the US on the Taang! label - the early home for a punkoid Lemonheads - and in Europe on Vinyl Solution. It was the first Australian recording outside of work by Nick Cave to make it into the US alternative Top 20 in 3 years.
„It’s a raw, hardcore thrash album.“ Ray said. „Just 100 miles an hour and everything’s on ten and everything’s louder than everything else.“ The band’s T shirts at the time appropriately parodied the cover of Kiss’s Rock and Roll Over album.
Again that year the band conducted The Highway To Hell tour across Australia with their English soul brother skaters, The Stupids.
A mini album called No Cheese commemorated the tour. Among the eight tracks were The Stupids doing a version of Minor Threat’s No Reason and The Ramones’ Let’s Go while The Hard-Ons did AC/DC’s Walk All Over You with help from the Stupids and C.I.D. by the UK Subs also with Stupid support. Only 6000 copies were pressed worldwide and it sold out as soon as it was released.
„That was one of the first bands on an alternative level to come here.“ Ray said. „Big Black came here but that was really it. We brought out The Stupids and they did the same for us in England. They kicked the door right open for us there because we got to support them and they had huge crowds.“
The band blasted out roughly 38 shows on the continent and about 12 in the US playing with the massively under-rated Bullet La Volta, The Lemonheads, Agnostic Front, Scream (which featured a pre-Nirvana Dave Grohl) and did one show as part of a bill with ALL, DOA and Government Issue.
„That first time we went to England it was so wild.“ Blackie said. „Then we came back and everyone all of a sudden had Hard Ons T shirts and caps and it was like ‘Wow! This is the other side of the world and we’re doing it!’“
„We sang from a teenage heterosexual point of view because,“ grinned Ray. „We were teenage heterosexuals! Some of the lyrics were blatantly sexist and obnoxious but to me that was making fun of ourselves because that’s what we did. When we were growing up as teenagers we’d try to pick up girls and have bad pick up lines and we’d do all the stupid things that western suburbs teenagers would do. We laughed at it. It was a send up of ourselves. The English press understood that. To have people in England say our lyrics are witty and relevant and written from a very honest point of view was amazing. Unfortunately that kind of thing never happened in Australia to the degree it did in England and places like France and Germany. The only place where we’re seen as a goofy dumb punk band is Australia really.“
1989 brought the single, Just being With You and the Love Is A Battlefield of Wounded Hearts album which was released in Europe and America as well as Australia. A New York B grade horror art mag reviewed the cover - not the contents - of Battlefield and called it „psychedelic violence at it’s weirdest.“
A tour of Europe took in something like 48 shows including the Futurama Festival in Belgium with the band as one of the headliners along with The Hoodoo Gurus, Bad Brains and Stone Roses.
Sounds called Just Being With You „Marvellous, instinctive pop“ and Battlefield was granted gushing reviews in Sounds, NME and Melody Maker.
„In 1989 we were doing our own headlines and selling out almost everywhere we went. In Germany we had an average crowd of about 700.“ Ray recalled.
One highlight of the tour was headlining the Astoria in London to 1200 over the Mega City Four and Les Thugs.
Another was supporting the then recently reformed Buzzcocks in New Jersey. They also played with Boston hardcore legends, GangGreen, The Doughboys and Chemical People.
The Fulham Greyhound in London sold out at eight in the evening and reduced the venue to a pool of sweat that a writer for NME likened to „Beirut in a heatwave.“ Also reviewing the night was Melody Maker who said that „The Hard-Ons are the touch paper and the crowd are the matches.“
In 1990 they released the minor radio hit, Where Did She Come From, as a single and the Yummy album which were the band’s first releases on CD and the first as part of an arrangement with Waterfront and Festival Records.
Yummy which remains the band’s biggest selling Australian release was titled during a trip from Melbourne to Sydney. It was decided that the next sign along the road was going to be the album title. The first said „Ballarat“ so that was out but the next said „Yummy Food“.
During Henry Rollins’ 1990 Australian tour he joined the band to record a version of AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock. Carry Me Down which was included on the Australian single was a song that Blackie had been holding onto for a while. It expanded the sonic notions many had of the Hard-Ons and planned the seeds not only for a new direction but of the band’s ultimate dissolution.
The next two years were The Hard-Ons golden age if ever they had one both in Australia and overseas.
In 1991 Where Did She Come From and Yummy - which Sounds gave a glowing four star review - were released in Europe on Vinyl Solution.
The year got off to a cracking start with a tour of Australia with The Ramones between January and February at the request of CJ - who slept on Blackie’s floor - and Joey Ramone. The band took some forced time off after Blackie broke his finger then in May played with The Buttholes Surfers across the country, an experience that radically intensified Blackie’s hunger for noise and strengthened a rethink of the band’s direction that would bring fist to face with the Too Far Gone album.
It was then off to Europe again. The band clocked up 77 shows with the likes of The Dickies and Jingo de Lunch and headlining over the then darlings of Australia, Ratcat.
In the tiny town of Turku things got so crazed that the Hard-Ons had to play behind chicken wire and their shows in Norway, Finland and France sold out before they even arrived in the respective countries. Manager, Tim Pittman was even asked to sign autographs in Sweden! The tour wound up with a show before 1500 at the London’s Camden Palace.
Through a deal with Teichiku Records in Japan, Smell My Finger was released together with Hot For Your Love Baby, Dickcheese with Love Is A Battlefield and Yummy with additional tracks. They played three shows in Japan and innocently caught a train only to be mobbed by girls. A boxed set of The Hard-Ons live at Budokan was seriously considered.
They returned home for an Australian tour then it was back to Europe for another 35 shows.
On this trip time was found to record with The Damned’s Captain Sensible in London. Much to Blackie’s disbelief Sensible said he played their records on his radio show and reeled off stories about the Damned until the early hours.
Back home in Australia they played before 3000 in one day at Melbourne’s Palace. First up was an all ages show and that night they pulled another 2000 with the Cosmic Psychos. They also played in New Zealand for the first time putting in four shows.
The entire Yummy tour from November 1990 to December 1991 took in a staggering 180 shows in 21 countries.
In the middle of 1991 the collaboration with Rollins was released in Australia and New Zealand, on Vinyl Solution in Europe and C/Z in the US In Australia it charted for nearly 4 months with 8 weeks at number one. It was the Hard-Ons’ 13th consecutive number one debut.
A film clip was shot with Rollins improvising Bon Scott’s get up in the original footage.
„We were talking about the original clip how Bon Scott was dressed like a priest.“ Blackie explained. „And Rollins goes, ‘Hey I can do this!’ and he got a piece of white cardboard and folded it over his black T shirt. A stroke of genius.“
In 1992 Rollins and the Hard-Ons bonded together live for two shows both of which were caught on video. The band believe the warmup they did at the Kardomah Cafe in Sydney for their Big Day Out appearance together was the superior event. It was held the same night as a reception for Nirvana.
„As soon as he stepped on stage and we started playing everything lifted.“ Blackie recalled. „We just looked at each other after Rollins opened his mouth and just mouthed ‘Wow!’ and it was heads down. It was rock n’ roll all night that night!“
The Dull single was then issued in Australia and packaged with Just Being With You as a four track EP for Europe on Vinyl Solution.
The Where The Wild Things Are joint EP with The Celibate Rifles was released in Australia only to mark the bands’ first tour together. The dates were a great success particularly in Sydney where five shows by the pairing pulled an average of 1000 heads a night.
The Hard-Ons’ pair of tracks on the EP were from the sessions with Captain Sensible. A couple of other tracks from that session are included in this package but the rest are unlikely to see the light of day.
On the recommendation of Rollins, the band were asked to open for the at the time immensely popular Red Hot Chili Peppers who were scheduled to tour in May with The Meat Puppets. Shit then happened with the departure of the Chilis’ guitarist just prior to the tour which was subsequently postponed. To make the most of the situation a joint tour by the Hard-Ons and The Meat Puppets was quickly scheduled.
The next release was the eight track Australian only Dateless Dudes Club which was produced by Rob Younger and mixed by Thee Slayer Hippy of Poison Idea.
It was the Hard-On’s most powerful moment to date - it was originally going to be called Toe-Jamboree or Jugs with a picture of a naked woman holding some…er…jugs of beer - but the clincher was still to come.
When the Chili Peppers finally toured in September and October, the Hard-Ons again got the gig and drummer, Chad Smith did their lights one night. After that they did another seven New Zealand shows.
1993 marked the appearance of the Hard-Ons’ second heavyweight „vocalist“ with Poison Idea’s mountainous Jerry A joining them for the Big Day Out. Video footage of their Big Day Out performance in Sydney may see the light of day at some point. Playing with the big man firmed the idea of getting a singer into the band and cemented another few bricks in the Hard-Ons’ future wall of sound.
„Perth Big Day Out was one of the best shows we’ve ever done.“ Blackie said. „That was the one Iggy Pop watched. He goes, ‘Man! These guys are great! I love the fat guy!“
„My two favourite punk records after the initial seventies’ stuff was Damaged by Black Flag and Feel The Darkness by Poison Idea and we got to work with two of the guys that were involved with what I thought were landmark records.“
The Crazy Crazy Eyes single with its cover showing a handful of sheep eyes was released in Australia and New Zealand and followed by the masterful, Too Far Gone album, the finest Hard Ons’ album of their careers, which was again produced by Thee Slayer Hippy and released virtually worldwide.
The channel vision of the album left even the hammerdown of Dickcheese standing with ghosts of The MC5 and Bullet La Volta guitar army meltdown, psychosis instead of sweetness - an element accentuated by Jerry A’s lyrics and vocal on The Blade - and some of the same poison that Pantera were then in the process of digesting.
Without question, Too Far Gone rammed the Hard-Ons into the sort of savage stratosphere of The Saints in their I’m Stranded era and gave them their heavyweight title belts.
The album’s intensity terrified those who thought they were just a noisy pop band. On the other hand, as Tim Pittman has pointed out, the audience that really should have gotten their teeth bent by it (read: the metal hordes) seemed unable to get pass the band’s zany cartoon image.
The band embarked on a 40 date Australian tour. 50 European shows and 20 US shows followed with suitably rave reviews for Too Far Gone.
„We played in Baltimore.“ Ray said. „And this guy had driven from Washington D.C. to see us play. He had almost all of our records but this was the first time he saw us. To quote him he said we „rocked like motherfuckers“. He said we rocked twice as hard as the best band he’s seen.“
The band caught up with Jerry A in his hometown of Portland, Oregon during the tour. They stayed at his house, drank his beer and one night in a rerun of the Big Day Out the human hillside got up with them and ran through a set.
In Madrid, they outdrew Guns n’ Roses’ bassist Duff McKagan and reckon that their three Spanish dates were the best they’d ever done anywhere for anyone.
At one show things got so seriously crazy that security pleaded for them not to do a sixth encore as the stage was beginning to collapse under the weight of an audience who just couldn’t keep off the boards. There was even a fight at the T shirt stand when someone jumped the queue! But that was nothing compared to the greeting Ray got when he arrived at the venue. He had finished dinner before the crew so took it upon himself to set up the T shirts stand himself. All hell broke loose outside the venue when he arrived and was bruised by a constant rain of well meant slaps on the back.
Italy was even more crazed. Fans actually dove onto the stage rather than from the stage. Ray was almost knocked out cold thanks to one of the brave new kamikaze breed. When he got to his feet hundreds were chanting his name like a weird scene from a Rocky movie.
The chaos was even more amazing when considering that the show was held in a church and the promoter had to „doctor“ some of the band’s lyrics so the local priest would approve of their use of the premises.
In France, the Hard Ones played before 1500 in a headline slot on one day of a three day festival at Fontenay le Conte with Unsane and Treponam Pal.
In Germany, they headlined over US outfit, the Muffs before 1300 which freaked out the promoters who were only expecting a crowd of between 6-700.
In 1994 the heavier than thou axe apocalypse of Test was released as a single in Australia and New Zealand only. The 5 track EP was available in it’s own right as well as being packaged with the reissue of Too Far Gone.
With the title cut taken from Too Far Gone, the EP also included a breathless live version of The Damned’s See Her Tonite with Jerry A on vocals, Thee Slayer Hippy sang maniacally on Stan The Ice Cream Man, Ray makes his first vocal appearance on Burn In Hell and Keish applies his tonsils to Wishing Well. The whole thing winds ups with several heated messages left on an answering machine by someone’s extremely pissed off former boyfriend.
The band then did the Gold Coast and Auckland Big Days Out and the Crazy Crazy Eyes was licensed to the movie, Spider and Rose.
If all this isn’t enough of a case to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that The Hard-Ons deserve sacred status, how about this. To date the band have sold over 250,000 records worldwide and had 17 consecutive Australian number one alternate chart hits from Girl In A Sweater to Crazy Crazy Eyes and every release in between which makes them logistically, statistically and any other way you want to look at it the most successful independent Australian band - ever.
They’re also the only Australian „indie“ band that has a fan club based in London. It’s been operating since June 1991 and members for the most part are from the UK, US and Japan.
And they’ve been handed and sent countless demos from across the world by bands who reckon they wouldn’t have started playing rock n’ roll at all if it weren’t for the Hard-Ons. Hey, can you really imagine The Meanies without the Hard-Ons’ blueprint?
What makes all these achievements all the more remarkable is that they’ve done it with the same lineup and independent management, agent and label.
„I can pretty safely say no matter how far the up and coming indie bands in Australia go.“ Ray said. „They can play to two or three thousand people here, but they’re never going to do what we did overall or play the important part we did in terms of shaping things in this genre of music. That’s being pretty arrogant but a lot of people have come up and said you guys changed my life…“
The title, Too Far Gone was prophetic; the Hard-Ons called it a day. The learning curve they were on in the last few years playing with Rollins, The Buttholes and Jerry A slam dunked them into a hunger and a need for sonic horizons that they were ill equipped to tackle in their present form.
Then a God stepped in. The Hard-Ons returnedeth. Their first show back was at the Irresponsathon gig at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney October 1997.
„The Irresponsathon really was such a gas.“ says Blackie. „It was killer doing it. We got up on a big stage and played I thought really well and basically thought, here we are, we’re back. It felt really good.“
„I think we’re a much better band than we used to be. I know it’s a cliche to say that sort of thing after a situation like ours but I think the experience we’ve gathered from playing with other musicians and doing other projects and shit has just basically made the mixture a lot richer and made us a lot more competent musically.“
Other projects? How long have you got? Blackie has emerged as something of musical workaholic in the last few years. He’s currently working with Ray in Nunchukka Superfly and has completed an album with former Kiss My Poodle’s Donkey brain child, Chris Townend that’s so far removed from the Hard-Ons it’s not funny. He’s also got an operation going with Robbie and Oran from Phlegm who have worked with John Zorn in New York. Then there’s Ray’s Toulouse outfit of sax, bass and drums with Joel from Nunchukka and his brother. Drummer, Keish kept in shape with Malibu Stacey.
So what happened in 1997 to suddenly make the Hard-Ons seem viable again given that the band folded because they felt they’d taken it as far as they could?
„I guess a couple of different things.“ says Blackie. „I’d say attitude would be one of them. At the time we broke up none of us wanted to play what was considered Hard-Ons’ music any more. We didn’t want to do it. We all wanted to go away and just do completely different shit and we are.“
„I guess because we do have these outlets now and we’re really satisfied with them and it feels really good to be doing it it’s OK on the side to do a bit of pop as well. We’re massive music fans and like countless forms of music and pop is one of them so why not play that as well on the side? Hard-Ons isn’t the only thing. We were naive to think that Hard-Ons could do everything and we stayed sticking together when clearly we should have separated.“
The band’s reunion has gotten some interesting feedback in addition to rabid audiences wherever they’ve played.
„Some guy said to Ray the other day, it’s really good that you guys are getting back together to show these (pop punk) dickheads how it’s done. It’s not like that. We got back together for various reasons and none of them was because we saw what was around us and thought let’s show these fucking dickheads how it’s done. That had nothing to do with it.“
„The only thing that I get a bit pissed off about is when I hear and see how the other bands doing the sort of shit we did are earning heaps of money. We didn’t make that much out of it and we’ve all got days jobs now instead of being able to play music full time and shit like that. That’s a real drag. But artistically it was correct for the Hard-Ons to break up when they did and artistically it feels right to get back together now.“
The band did some recording in 1998 that proved beyond any reasonable doubt not only had their collective fire not been lost but they were burning on a blue and thus much hotter flame. In December of that year they out did even the expectations those recordings generated when they went into studio with Ed Kuepper, the guitarist from the legendary Saints and all round Oz music icon. The results were amazing.
The world will get a taste of exactly how amazing with the release of the band’s Yesterday and Today 4 track EP on 29th March. The EP is the debut release for One Way Street Records, a new label set up by Hard-Ons’ manager, Tim Pittman and Citadel label boss, John Needham. The EP features two incendiary new songs from the Kuepper sessions - Small Talk and You Disappointed Me - along with some rare demos recorded way back in 1985 - Been Had Before and Got A Baby. One Way Street will also be issuing a self titled mini album by Nunchukka Superfly.
To cap it all off on 29th March the Hard-Ons’ hand picked Best of album is released through Citadel. It’s 24 remastered tracks including faves, singles and B sides, live takes and rarities. Small Talk from the Kuepper sessions is also included. The Australian edition of the album will initially come with a 25 track live CD recorded in Germany and Holland during the band’s 1991 world tour. The album - without the live slab - will be available on double vinyl in Europe on German label, Radio Blast, with an extra 7 tracks.
The HO’s then hit Australian highways for a national tour starting 15 April which will be followed by a 40 show, 13 country, 6 day off European tour which has had the continent in fever mode ever since the visit was first announced. Given the chaotic scenes the band generated during their last Euro run this is hardly surprising. Just take it easy with the backslapping OK?
Bearbeitet von tonikink am 6. Sep. 2008, 15:40
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