INTERVIEW: ANGRY ANDERSON, ROSE TATTOO – February 2018

INTERVIEW: ANGRY ANDERSON, ROSE TATTOO – February 2018
By Shane Pinnegar

Now officially in his 70’s, Angry Anderson has a new lease of life, with a renewed Rose Tattoo line-up featuring the indefatigable Mark Evans of AC/DC, Heaven and Tice & Evans fame and Bob Spencer, formerly of Finch, Skyhooks and The Angels, alongside long-time foil Dai Pritchard and John ‘Watto’ Watson [James Reyne, Vika Bull] keeping the drum stool warm while Paul DeMarco serves out a jail sentence for drugs and weapons indiscretions.

Rose Tattoo play Metropolis Fremantle for Bonfest this Friday, 16 February, and the members of the band all appear at the spectacular Jailbreak Concert at Fremantle Prison on Saturday, 17 February, along with Raise The Flag and The Rose Carleo Band.

We get Angry on the phone after a long chat to a European magazine, off the back of the Tatts recently announced Blood Brothers European tour, and he’s in fine spirits and ready to talk – and then some. You don’t so much interview Angry Anderson, as get out of his way and throw in a few prompts from time to time, so find a comfy chair and enjoy the ride.

Rose Tattoo 2018 – Mark Evans, Dai Prtchard, Angry Anderson, John ‘Watto’ Watson, Bob Spencer

100% ROCK: You’ve just had a big long chat with a European magazine, I believe.

Angry: Most of my chats are big, long chats. I don’t know how to be brief, which is why I’m a failed politician.

100% ROCK: Probably for the best, let’s face it. You don’t want to be in there with the rats.

Angry: Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more.

100% ROCK: How are you? It’s been a while since we’ve had a chat, thanks for your time.

Angry: I’m good, I’m good, mate, thank you. In recent times, after the… I thought with music being… well it’ll never be on the back burner, but I wasn’t doing much, creatively. I suppose in a sense that made me lazy, and a bit complacent. I was quite happy to sing in other people’s bands, singing a lot of covers. I was having a lot of fun, it was stress free. I kind of felt like, well, that’s okay, that can always be a sideline.

I romantically enjoyed the idea of making a contribution to the greater good – certainly not belittling the influence or the effect that music can have on people, [but] you know, just thinking maybe my time has come and gone [in music], and maybe I’m the last one to be seeing the writing on the wall. Maybe it’s time for me to hang up the guns? And I thought, I’ve always wanted to improve certain things about us as a people, and us as a country. I’ve always been attracted by romantic gestures, and a sense of the grandiose. That’s part of why people get into rock and roll bands! It’s about sex and drugs and rock n’ roll, simple as that, but it’s also – whether it’s conscious or unconscious, when you’re young and naïve, I think it’s unconscious but it’s lurking in the background – you want to be remembered in some way. That’s when you go into therapy, and you find out that that’s common in 99.99% of all people.

Anyway, long story short, when the end came, if you like, with politics, it became very, very clear to me what other people have said all the way along: you don’t belong there. But, you know, the person that dies gloriously… so I was quite happy to have a go, and for all the right reasons. The divine, in her infinite wisdom, had another purpose in mind for me. Just when I thought I was going to sell up and move out to the country, shoot feral animals and become a hermit, along comes the intervention that we all so enjoy and/or suffer.

100% ROCK: Is that how it felt to you, like an intervention?

Angry: Yeah, I think when life steps in and says, ‘you might have an idea that that’s what you want, but I’ve got other things in store for you,’ it’s an intervention, an interference. It also is an intervention on your own behalf – because the great wisdom of the divine is such that I wasn’t ready to retire. I wasn’t ready. I thought I was, and I was, I suppose, in the process of even convincing myself I was, but I’ve always believed, as I said, in the great wisdom of divine design, if you like – the creation process, however you want to see it. There is a spiritual part of us that knows better, I suppose, for want of a better turn of phrase.

There I was, ready to sell up and make a huge profit on my property, where I live, [and] going to buy a bush retreat, become almost like a hermit – that’s what I look forward to anyway at some stage of my life – then I thought, you know what? The last couple of years before I sell up, I’ll do something I’ve always wanted to do: I’ll form my own band, the Angry Anderson Band. There’s another body of music that I want to do. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Motown period, that soul thing. I picked a bunch of excruciatingly talented musicians – the bass player’s a guy called Dario Bartolin, he plays bass with The Baby Animals. When he agreed to play in my band, his manager said, ‘tell [Angry] if he wants to do something to give me a call. By the sound of it, he’s going to need management.’ So, I spoke to him and we talked about launching in a new musical direction with the Angry Anderson Band. He said, “’the inevitable question has to be asked: what are you going to do with the Tatts?’ I said, ‘nothing really, why?’ He said, ‘I don’t think it’s over yet.’

100% ROCK: Well, it was only two and a half years ago we spoke, and you said that was it, it was dead and buried.

Angry: Yeah, yeah. Like I said: Intervention.

There’s a greater wisdom than I. I’ve never claimed to be all that intelligent. I’m smart, but intelligent is another thing. It just shows you how wonderful and fluid and how inspirational life is, and I’ve always believed that. We touched upon that last time. I think it was a huge, maybe relief is not the right word, but it certainly was a joyous thing for someone to say, ‘I think you’ve got more to contribute.’

I always thought Rose Tattoo would be like… I’d see someone in my dotage that I think epitomised what Rose Tattoo is all about and I would appraise this young bunch of people and say, ‘you can have the name, because you play the game. You live up to it.’ That’s a very romantic view, but yeah, when he said, ‘no, I think there’s more that we can do, and would you like to continue the legacy, so to speak?’ that appealed to my romantic sense, which was why the band came into being in the first place.

100% ROCK: You have Mark Evans and Bob Spencer now, along with Dai and Watto – it’s a bit of a dream team. Were you in any way wary about calling the band Rose Tattoo?

Angry: No.

100% ROCK: Just straight in?

Angry: Yep. See, when Rose Tattoo first came about and established the band as whatever it might be, it was about the image and the whole [persona of the band] that established the name, or the legend, as some people like to call it. Now it’s about playing the music, because Bob and Dai and Mark and Watto – I don’t know that anyone will survive to be in a permanent line-up, but there’s certainly a possibility.

Watto won’t, because he’s got previous commitments to James [Reyne] and also his wife, Vika [Bull]. Having been married once, I know that loyalty and allegiance. What we’ve said in the press conferences is that he’s keeping the drum seat warm for DeMarco, because once DeMarco gets out, he’ll just sit behind the band again. He’ll just come back, pick up where he left off.

100% ROCK: You’ve remained staunchly loyal to DeMarco since he went down, it reinforces the nature of the Tats as a gang – or a club, might be a better term.

Angry: Yeah. I wouldn’t be so pompous as to say I’d do it for anybody, because I wouldn’t. But DeMarco’s not your normal human being… I remember when Pete [Wells] first said, ‘I have a guy who plays with me, a guy called Fred Zeppelin’ – which is a ridiculous stage name, and I said, ‘anyone with a fucking name like Fred Zeppelin, I don’t want to be in the same room with him. That’s fucking awful.’ Pete goes, ‘come and see him play.’ I remember meeting him and I said, ‘you’ve got to come and play in the Tatts – [but] you’ve got to drop the Fred Zeppelin shit.’

Yeah, he’s the same spirituality, the same [type of] person, of the same entity, identity, whatever word you choose – he could have easily been one of the originals.

He came into replace, in a permanent sense, the original drummer – Digger Royal. He was well aware of what was being asked of him, but he’s not only a beautiful player, he’s a wonderful human. Anyone and everyone who’s ever played with him says exactly the same thing. Why wouldn’t they, because it’s true. Paul is… he’s like so many of us. Maybe we won’t say that he’s like everybody else – he can be a fearsome weapon, and also he’s the biggest heart, and he’s a fellow Leo, as Digger was. The volatility that helped foster a sort of burning that bonded the band together, two Capricorns and three Leos. It was like, ‘this is going to be interesting,’ and it was.

We’re two entirely different people, as we should be. It’s not just because of that that I’ve stuck by him, it’s because in the time that we’ve spent together, I learned to love him as a brother. He’s really one of the dearest people that I’ve ever met.

Angry Anderson by Craig Peihopa

100% ROCK: Having a new incarnation of the band on board, has it given you the licence to reassess the set list and go back and listen to all the albums again, or are you just concentrating on that peak period first few records?

Angry: No, I went back and listened to everything to try and bring something, because we have not as yet created new material – but that hinges on DeMarco too. I wouldn’t even think about writing and doing a new album without DeMarco. By that time, of course, the rest of the band will have solidified, become the band. There’s no guarantees that any of the current line-up will. We know Watto won’t or can’t, but that’s always been understood. I’ve always wanted to work with Watto because he’s known for playing Australian Crawl and for being James and Vika’s drummer. He’s played with some of the heavyweights.

He’s a go-to guy, people would say, ‘oh wow, Johnny Watson, you picked Johnny Watson.’ I say yeah, he’s a monster, and he is. He’s one of the greatest rock drummers. To play in Rose Tatts, you’ve got to have that mongrel in you. You wouldn’t pick it in Watto, because he’s just the nicest guy in the world, he’s got a wicked sense of humour but he’s the sort of guy where don’t treat him like a mug, don’t take him for a mug and he’ll treat you with respect. If you disrespect him, I think that he could be quite formidable, but you don’t actually see it. With DeMarco, obviously, you can see it. You can see what a menacing person he can be.

[Watto] is a monster of a drummer [and] he didn’t need a final test to prove that. A few people have seen him play in the band and go, ‘Jesus, what a powerhouse.’ He’s got that mongrel instinct, and that’s the thing that I look for. Even though Bob [Spencer] looks like Gandhi, when he gets onstage with a guitar, he’s a rock monster.

100% ROCK: Bob’s pedigree speaks for itself, obviously.

Angry: And Mark, I mean, he’s got the credentials – enshrined in iconic rock history. We recognise the original bass player in one of the greatest rock bands that ever breathed. He’s developed as a player and as a person since those early fresh young days. It makes him a better player, makes him a great player. He knows how to play rock and roll.

100% ROCK: It’s very appropriate he’s in the band at the moment, as you’re in Fremantle this week for the huge celebration of all things Bon Scott: Bonfest.

Angry: Yeah, and he plays in the Blood, Sweat & Beers thing [where] I sing the Tatts and the AC/DC. He’s playing bass with TMG [Ted Mulry Group] – one of the earliest Alberts bands. In a romantic sense, I sort of feel like these things are destined to be.

100% ROCK: It sounds like you’re reinvigorated by it all, and a bit excited to have the Tatts back. Just looking at the list of dates you’ve got coming up, not only in Australia but also through Europe – it’s great that you’re getting out there again so widely.

Angry: The thing about it is, at the end of the day, the great Aussie credo, if you like, is you’ve got to have a go. The only way to find out is to have a go, and if Rose Tattoo is to play again, it has to play to our niche. It’s like The Angels, it’s like The Screaming Jets, it’s like The Radiators are still out there playing, and they play with such heart. Every time I see them I’m smiling from ear to ear, they’re just having so much joy with the music and it’s all these years later!

And none of us are embarrassed or try to shy away [from the fact that] we’ve been around since just after they invented steam. We make no bones about that, but the Tatts forte, as with all those bands, which is why the Rads and those bands are still out there playing, is because it’s the gigs, you know? You can’t help yourself.

You’re going to play, then fucking do it. I remember when we went back [to Europe] and did Bang Your Head Festival with a different line-up, my band. And Thomas [Jensen, promoter] said, ‘Is there any chance we can get Rose Tattoo back?’ I said, ‘funny you should say that, I just set up new management in Australia,’ because Thomas runs Wacken, he’s managed us through Europe. I said, ‘well, what do you got in mind? Do you want to book a tour?’ He said, ‘we could probably come over for two or three weeks and maybe do three or four gigs a week. I said, ‘that sounds a bit sort of half-assed.’ He sort of said, ‘I don’t mean to be insensitive, but it’s been a long time since 2008,[and you’ll] be 70 this year,’ which was last year.

I said, ‘yeah, but you know, five years ago preparing for my first political joust, I thought, what could prepare me? I trained for a year and went back and did the Kokoda Trail.’ I did it 15 years previously for television, and I thought if anything can prepare me physically and mentally – because I knew that 15 years later, I wasn’t in real good shape physically or mentally when I did it the first time. It was great, it re-birthed me. It gave me a chance, a new start. I went and did it the second time, so I’m doing the same now. I’m training myself, and I’m going to be physically fit, and mentally.

100% ROCK: It’s 15 shows in 17 days in Europe. That’s hard work for anyone.

Angry: Yeah, we’ve done it before.

100% ROCK: Without putting too fine a point on it, you were younger then.

Angry: Yes, indeed, without putting too fine a point on it. I absolutely appreciate that and absolutely realise that yes, that’s true. Let’s face it, you and I both know a lot of what you do is in your head.

The thing about it is, if you’re committed, then you’re determined to do it and you can pull it off. Vocally, historically speaking, you get past the first three or four gigs, you get sort of a roughness. I’ve always been able to step up and do a show. I’ve even been able to do shows and, God bless me, the audience, I remember a couple of times particularly in Europe where I’ve had the flu and I can hardly speak. I’ve gone up there and sing the notes, just not all the lyrics, and the fans know that, and they’ll carry you for that time. It is a wonderful relationship to have with an audience.

100% ROCK: Absolutely. I have no doubt you’ll do it and blow them away.

Angry: Thank you.

100% ROCK: What about America? I’ve got friends over there who regularly ask me, ‘when are they heading out to the States?’ I know there’s a lot of people out there who’d like to see you.

Angry: Our manager is talking to America now, because we’re obviously not visiting this year, but I gave him five years [as manager] and I’m pretty sure at 75 I probably won’t want to do it anymore. In that time, DeMarco will be out, we will have recorded our last album if that’s meant to be. I’ll be pretty happy to hang up the guns at 75 and then concentrate on my band, which will be… when I say softer, it’ll always be a band of passion and commitment, but it won’t be as demanding as Rose Tatts. In all reality, I love what it takes to sing those songs, because you can’t not sing those songs the way they were written. There’s only one way they can be performed – you can’t tidy it, you can’t tame it, you can’t get a softer version.

100% ROCK: It’s heart and soul, isn’t it? That’s what’s in there.

Angry: Yeah. I remember Watto, after the first couple of shows that we did. Watto, I don’t I think he’s ever held back – or that anyone in this line-up has ever held back on a gig in their life. I remember him saying he was paying attention, ‘I’m sitting back there, watching these new people at the front play. I’m just drawn into it. It’s so intense,’ and he said it’s like standing next to a furnace. Fuck yeah.

100% ROCK: Right on. Playing Bonfest, as I said, next weekend, does it warm your heart to see your old mate Bon revered so earnestly by so many people?

Angry: Yeah, absolutely. I remember, in all honesty, the first time I saw Bon perform was more than likely with The Valentine’s, and I didn’t see it. I saw him perform with Fraternity and the thing that I realised between the two [groups], which I thought was rather cool, was one was like a real glam sort of, ’60s pop thing, and the other one was like the complete opposite, like an organic, earthy band. I thought that was very interesting, here’s a guy that can sing, but he’s also got this many layers. Then of course I lost sight of him for [a few] years, and really didn’t think much of it – there were other singers that impressed me more, like Broderick Smith, Leo Lecastro, people that I just sort of would stand side stage or in front of the stage and just go, ‘fuck, these guys are amazing.’

I told the story earlier that Phil [Rudd] and I, and a few others from Buster Brown went along to see AC/DC play at the Station Hotel. Bon was standing up front, in those horrible satin overalls, yeah. I understood that – it made his cock look bigger [laughs]. He didn’t even wear underpants, well, none of us did in those days. I just thought this is it, he’s found his niche. After the gig, in those days what you did is you didn’t disappear, you went in the band room, maybe got changed and come out to the bar room to drink with the punters. He came out, I remember being introduced to the Youngs [Angus & Malcolm] and talking to Bon. Someone asked me, ‘what did you think of the band?’ I said, ‘it’s fucking amazing, they’ve just got to get a decent drummer.’

100% ROCK: Little did you know…

Angry: Yeah – [then] Phil said to me, later, ‘they’ve asked me to come and play. What do you think?’ I said, ‘well, after seeing them…’ and Buster Brown, the original line-up was falling apart by then. I said, ‘you’d be mad not to [join AC/DC]’

100% ROCK: Obviously, Malcolm Young passed very recently. That was a bit of a blow to Australian rock, and George Young, of course, not long before that. Along with all your fellow Rose Tattoo originators, we’re losing them one by one. It’s happening faster than we’d like, isn’t it?

Angry: Well, yeah, it is. I was doing an interview some weeks ago, [and] it came up about the passing, particularly Malcolm. I said, ‘yeah, that’s hard enough, but you get to a certain age – and I’m at it – there’s quite a few others around, obviously, that are in the same boat. We have to face that, that’s a reality.’ You don’t get to my age and not have people [dying]… soon they’re going to be dying around me of old age. So far it’s been cancer, or the results of an abusive lifestyle or whatever.

The thing that shocked me, which brought it to my attention, losing Doc [Neeson, of The Angels], that was hard. That was really hard. And Ted [Mulry], some years before. I remember seeing Ted for the last time, there at the Prince of Wales, [on the] North Shore. He said, ‘I’ll see you, comrade.’ I said, ‘Ted,’ and I had to say it, I said, ‘Ted, I’m not sure if I’ll see you again, so I’ll just tell you now… [pauses, getting emotional]… I love you dearly, just in case I don’t see you again.’ Because I really thought, I can’t come back and see him the way he was, knowing that he would deteriorate. I saw him only weeks before he died.

It’s the same with Peter [Wells, original Rose Tattoo guitarist]. I forced myself to go and see Pete, because I had to tell him how much I loved him… but anyway, getting back to the point…

There was this group of people that were all part of the Alberts [Studios] family. It was a very special experience to be part of the Alberts family. If it hadn’t have been for Bon and Angus, who used to come and jam with the band – in fact, they’re the only people who ever actually jammed with the band – they brought Malcolm and George along. Obviously it was Malcolm and George’s decision to have us come and join the label.

We lost Malcolm years ago, because, you know, he’s not been Malcolm for some years. George, I never expected that, wow, nobody saw that coming, [but] we all knew Malcolm was going to go. Yeah, that sort of family thing that the Alberts label was, that added another dimension, if you like, [to the music].

It’s pretty difficult, with all of the rock fraternity that is gone… One of the bands that’s now out and on fire again is Mi-Sex. They’re just out there burning it up, I mean, it’s like Steve Balbi was born to do it. He’s just an amazing front guy. To see the band alive again and impassioned, that’s a joyous thing. It was difficult, you know, to see [original singer Steve Gilpin] taken so quickly in that way. Rock and roll singers aren’t exempt from every day occurrences, you know? I mean, it’s not exotic to die of cancer – cancer’s kind of like, you die of cancer, fuck, another one? To die in a car accident or a motorcycle accident or whatever, that’s just as hard to deal with.

Moving on to more upbeat subjects, we talk at length about DeMarco’s jail time, with Angry saying he looks forward to visiting him in prison, and hopes for a release earlier than his 2020 scheduled release, due to good behaviour, the drummer having kept his nose clean during his years of incarceration.

Angry Anderson & Paul DeMarco with Rose Tattoo

Angry: He may have a reduced sentence because of his exemplary record from the day he was arrested, the fact that he went through the detoxification straight up, he didn’t ask for a drug assistance. They offered him medication to bring him down, and typical belligerent DeMarco said, ‘nah, fuck that, if I’m going to give it up, I’ll just give it up.’ The shrink said, ‘that’s doing it the hard way,’ obviously not knowing too much about DeMarco.

He and I both ascribe to the same philosophy: if it comes easy it’s probably not worth having. He did it and he’s won the admiration of [the guards] and the governor. He’s got really good references, so even worse case scenario, it’s year after next.

100% ROCK: I reckon the thought of sitting on that stool again with Rose Tattoo, you guys in front of him and possibly recording another album, that’s got to give him something to strive for, doesn’t it?

Angry: Oh yeah. He says that every time I visit him. He leans in, he’s a foot away from your face, and just looks me right in the eye and he goes, ‘it’s still my gig, isn’t it?’ I said, ‘DeMarco, as long as you keep yourself straight, it’ll always be your gig.’

INTERVIEW: ANGRY ANDERSON, ROSE TATTOO – February 2018

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About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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