Interview: Tim Pittman and DIg It Up!
Big Sky Wire
Interview by Andrew Kidman and Michele Lockwood
Mastermind behind booking agency, concert promotion and record label, Feel Presents is long time Sydney surfer Tim Pittman. Tim is responsible for bringing over such acts as: Lou Reed, Dinosaur Jr., Cat Power and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy.
In 2003, he released, Tales From the Australian Underground: Singles 1976-1989, an opus of rare singles from the salad days of Australian indie-rock history. Followed not long after by a second volume delving further into this era with more singles from 1977-1990. These collections are pertinent to understanding the evolution of Australian music in the time before the internet and the subsequent mass-homogenization of music worldwide. Do yourself a favor and get a copy. You can thank me later.
More recently, Pittman, along with the Hoodoo Gurus have curated yet another total rock experience, Dig It Up! The Gurus will not only be performing their second album, Mars Needs Guitars in its entirety but they have brought together some friends to share the stage. This year’s Dig It Up! includes: Flamin’ Groovies, Blue Oyster Cult, Buzzcocks, Peter Case Band, The Stems and a few more yet to be announced.
In this interview Tim discusses a bit of history on these bands, why he can’t wait to see Blue Oyster Cult and he also confesses to shedding a man-tear at seeing the Sunnyboys re-unite. Read on…
To find out more about what to expect at Dig It Up! this year and brush up on a bit of rock history check the website here.
What is the premise behind the Dig It Up! tours? Is this an annual thing we can look forward to?
The premise of Dig it Up! is to celebrate all things rock ‘n’ roll. It’s not a festival with a whole bunch of disparate acts thrown against the wall in an effort to bring varying crowds in, it’s a boutique event for those who love the rock (and roll) and who want to witness the lineage of sounds from the then to now. Really good fun I reckon.
If everyone is willing and we can pull together a strong enough bill we will do it. It needs to be special otherwise it’s not worth doing.
Can you tell us the original inspiration for getting the Hoodoo Gurus back on stage?
The only time the Gurus haven’t been on stage was for the period 1998 – 2003 otherwise they have always been out there playing somewhere. They came to us though, as they were over the idea of just playing generic pubs or clubs and had been inspired by an event we held in conjunction with Sydney Festival and ATP on Cockatoo Island in Sydney called, All Tomorrow’s Parties. It was hosted/curated by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and they loved the whole idea of inviting acts who inspired them originally (and continue to do so) and those who they themselves have provided an inspiration for. Our initial idea was for the one we are presenting in Sydney (4 venues running concurrently along Enmore Rd) which they liked the idea of so much that they asked us to try and recreate that as best as possible around the country.
The Hoodoo Gurus really resonated with Australian surfers in the 80s why do you think this was?
Like Sunnyboys, Radio Birdman, early Midnight Oil and even early Angels there is a certain energy about the Hoodoo Gurus that seemed to run in tandem with a surfers mentality. Preparation for a surf in those days was more often than not fuelled with a car trip blasting out a mixed cassette of tracks not dissimilar to those programmed on Dig It Up! and the Gurus were equally as often a big part of that.
What can we expect at this year’s Dig It Up? What are you personally most looking forward to?
Blue Oyster Cult! I would have first been introduced to them via my older brother around 1976 or 1977. There was a period pre or early punk where he was coming home with these weird sounding bands: B.O.C, The Doors, Pavlov’s Dog, The Stooges’ Metallic K.O. album and B.O.C’s Agents OF Fortune album (the one that features ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’) just struck a chord. They really don’t sound like anyone else and either you get it or you don’t. They don’t fit any scene but you will find lovers of prog-rock, punk rock, heavy metal and garage rock all equally as excited to be seeing Blue Oyster Cult (as long as they actually know them) for the first ever time in Australia. Here’s a personal fave, Dominance and Submission from their third album, 1974’s Secret Treaties. One of rocks’ truly great albums:
Flamin’ Groovies are another one I’m hugely looking forward to. A stripped back line-up toured Australia in 1986 but this line-up includes Chris Wilson who was the singer and second guitarist on the band’s trio of classic late seventies albums ‘Shake Some Action’, ‘Now and Jumping In the Night’. Catch a whiff of ‘Slow Death’ to understand:
Were there any bands on the list that couldn’t make this year’s tour but might resurface in the future?
The Remains, The Muffs, Lipstick Killers to name just a few.
Can you tell us why the Blue Oyster Cult were important?It’s interesting they came from Long Island, New York, they must have grown up with the residue of surf culture, have you ever spoken to them about this?
Radio Birdman’s name came from a lyric in an Iggy & The Stooges song (T.V. Eye) but their first album title came from a lyric in a B.O.C. song (Dominance and Submission). The Radio Birdman symbol was directly inspired by the B.O.C symbol and the band covered Blue Oyster Cult’s, ‘Career Of Evil’, ‘Dominance and Submission’ and ‘Transmaniacon MC’ in their set and even used another, ‘And Then Came The Last Days of May’, as the intro music to their last tour. Birdman spin-off band, The Hitmen covered 2 x B.O.C tracks (‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ and ‘Godzilla’) in their live set and another Sydney band, ME 262 took their name from a B.O.C song. The influence of Radio Birdman on Australian underground (and the Dig It Up! audience in particular) and even popular music (Midnight Oil, The Angels, Cold Chisel) is well documented but the B.O.C. inspiration on Radio Birdman is probably less known. Hoodoo Gurus guitarist Brad Shephard also claims to know how to play ALL the songs on Blue Oyster Cult’s first five albums. That’s all the guitar parts we are talking about.
How influential were bands like the Hoodoo Gurus, Blue Oyster Cult and the Flamin’ Groovies to the history of Australian rock?
I guess I have outlined the influence of B.O.C above. The Hoodoo Gurus, though, took the mantle from Radio Birdman somewhat in the early eighties as the rock and roll undergrounds taste moved from hi-energy to more garage and kitsch. The Gurus lead the way forward here and were a major inspiration for The Stems, Huxton Creepers et al and later bands like, You Am I and Even, amongst many others. Enough to have their own tribute album, ‘Stoneage Cameos’, recorded in their honour.
The Flamin’ Groovies managed to appeal directly to both the Birdman crowd and the Hoodoo Gurus crowd. The earlier Groovies material with original singer Roy Loney, was quite Stonesy which brought in the rockers and their later era featuring singer Chris Wilson, was indebted to The Beatles and Mersey-beat and produced a stunning collection of ballsy pop-songs. Slow Death, featured above bridged the gap between the two eras of the band. Hoodoo Gurus, Scientists and The Hitmen are just a few of the local bands to have covered Flamin’ Groovies songs.
Witness the Groovies best known and most covered song, Shake Some Action:
Do you feel that music has come full circle, that audiences are interested in seeing bands from their youth? Are there many ‘new listeners’ appearing at these kind of re-union tours?
Yes to both. Older folk have often come out the other side of having had children and looking for new or renewed kicks while the resurgence of garage-rock via Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Royal Headache, The Straight Arrows, et al has seen a brand new generation wanting to see the original inspiration for all of this mess.
Are these shows just that – re-union tours or have these bands continued to develop their music? I saw Iggy and the Stooges recently and was prepared to be disappointed by an old guy and his band playing out their youth, but instead I was totally inspired by his zest for life and the new material his band had worked up since reuniting… have you notice this kind of stuff occurring when you put it out there to these bands to play again. I heard from people that went to the ‘Kids in Dust’ shows that the Sunnyboys re-unite was worthwhile…
The Sunnyboys show was amazing on a couple of levels. 1. That considering the conditions under which they broke up (health issues in the main) and the living circumstances and documented heath problems of singer / songwriter Jeremy Oxley it was a miracle they could perform at all. 2. That they could do so as if time has stood still these last 21 years was just amazing and true testament to a great band. I quietly sobbed to myself like a baby at the Dig it Up! show in 2012 (and continue to do so each time I see them) and thought I was the only one but everyone I asked or that spoke to me about that show all had the same experience. It was highly emotional and even makes me hold back a tear just writing about it!
What do you enjoy about surfing?
The picture perfect image of sun, deserted beaches and good surf is certainly the ideal for me but really just the whole experience of being ‘one’ with the sea and yourself is pretty great, especially if it’s on the south coast of NSW when the surf is good and un-crowded, two things that do not go hand in hand in Sydney…
Dig It Up! Tour Dates:
Brisbane The Tivoli Thursday 18 April 2013
Tweed Heads Twin Towns Friday 19 April 2013
Sydney The Enmore Theatre & Surrounds Sunday 21 April 2013
Melbourne The Palace Theatre & Surrounds Thursday 25 April 2013
Perth The Astor Sunday 28 April 2013
Big Sky is the property on which Andrew Kidman and Michele Lockwood live with their two children in Northern New South Wales. Once a week they speak to writers, photographers, surfers, artists and musicians for Coastalwatch's Big Sky Wire.
To follow Andrew Kidman's film celebrating 40 years of Morning of The Earth, head to the Spirit of Akasha blog here.
To check out Michele Lockwood's blog click through here.
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