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Keepers of the oz rock flame, The Screaming Jets released a new album this year titled Chrome, their 7th studio album since the band formed in 1989, proving they’re as rockin’ and as relevant as ever. In a career spanning more than two and half decades, loyal audiences still pack out venues nationwide to see Newcastle’s favourite sons and will do so once again when the band head off on their Go Hard Or Go Chrome tour, beginning in October. The current lineup is the longest continuous variation of the band and as guitarist JIMI HOCKING tells AM’s Greg Phillips, The Jets are in a very happy place indeed.

The Screaming Jets have a long history and are a much loved band. How long did it take before you genuinely felt like part of this band, as opposed to being a hired hand?
When I first joined the band it was ’93 and I was filling in for Richie Lara who was taking a hiatus. Dave and I hit it off pretty much instantly when we met so my three week stint turned into something like five years. I did the next two albums and it didn’t really take long to for me to be ensconsed in the band because it had kind of gone pear shaped for the band at the time and I was this new kid on the block, so it was pretty quick. Then my hiatus from the band was from the end of the 90s to 2009, nearly ten years I was absent but the band actually stopped for a couple of years in there as well but I think I slotted in pretty much straight away.

You did a tour with The Angels and you’re now a big part of the Jets. Both bands form part of a great legacy of Australian rock which includes Rose Tattoo and AC/DC. Not only did that style of Australian rock influence a lot of local bands after them but also had a big effect on bands globally, especially those coming out of the Sunset Strip in LA. You must be proud to be part of that lineage?
Yeah how ironic. The Angels thing was ’88 so that was several years before the Screaming Jets and before the Jimi The Human band even. When I was with the Jets we did umpteen tours with The Angels so we all knew each other very well. It was quite organic that Dave came in and sang with The Brewster Brothers and then evolving into The Angels. I’ve often said that we were very fortunate. We were a generation behind the Angels but we were still directly attached to that great legacy of Australian rock. Some of my students now talk about it like it was some far off idea whereas we were there and very fortunate to know and have been influenced by that music.

Who do you see carrying the torch for that kind of music now?
We’ve had some really good bands support us like Tracer from Adelaide who are doing really well in Europe now, a band called Massive. Obviously Tequila Mockingbyrd who we saw at the Melbourne Guitar Show.  Love all those guys. The girls from Stonefield as well, so there are still quite a few bands out there carrying the flame for Australian rock and roll. It’s just a different landscape for them to come through. As much as mainstream music still play rock n roll, they don’t play a lot of new stuff unfortunately. Look at us. We’ve got a new album Chrome, I don’t know that they are playing it but I know they still play our old stuff.

Paul Woseen is major songwriter on the new album. You all had a bit of a write on it but what’s the process involved when Paul brings a song to the band? What happens to it from there?
When we decided to get the album idea and concept up and running, it was after I’d been back in the band several years. We were feeling a sense of renewed energy and it was on the cards that an album may come out of this positive feeling. Dave and I wrote a couple of things together to kind of get the ball rolling but we also realised that the sound of The Jets had been dominated by Paul’s writing style, so we thought it made sense that he be the main songwriter again. So we kind of charged him with the idea … I mean the guy is prolific, he’s writing all the time anyway. So we sat down together and said it makes sense that you write the stuff and once we set him on a mission, he just went crazy at home and banged out a whole bunch of songs and we revisited some old songs. The new single (Cash In Your Ticket) is a song I demoed with him 20 years ago. Having said all that, we took Paul’s songs in their raw form and we really made this record like an old school rock n roll band. There was no cut and paste about it … we got acoustic guitars out at the studio and we’d demoed up the songs so they were complete songs. The next day we got the drums and electric guitars out and jammed them out as a band. We did bash tapes like you would for your old garage sessions and pretty much worked them up from bare bones as a group. It might be just me but I think you can hear that when you listen to the record because it sounds like we are playing together. When it came to recording, we put all the rhythm guitars, drums and bass down all together, so the structure of the album is all played together. Obviously when it came to solos, there was a bit of embellishment. I wanted to use various guitars and vintage things so there were some overdubs and of course the vocals but essentially we recorded as a band.

jimi-colourHow much discussion is there between yourself and Scotty in regard to guitar parts once songs are presented to you? Is it fairly obvious what each of you need to do?
It’s not something we think about. It becomes apparent when we are working them up as to what we are doing. Paul will have chord progressions and things that he wants to be a certain way, but we both come up with our own parts generally speaking. Scotty is great to have in the band, he has a great sense of arrangement and very skilled in the studio as an engineer. He has a very perceptive view of what could be happening with recording ideas as well as playing ideas. It evolved quite organically. You’d be surprised how easy it was to make this record. He or I would play something, look at each other and say what did you think of that? We’d either nod or shake our head, it was as simple as that.

Razor is a song on the album which you co-wrote with Dave Gleeson. Sounds like there are several guitars on the track. What were you using?
On that track … you must remember Josie Jason of course … I actually have one of Josie’s old guitars at home that I had restored from her childhood. I played that song with that guitar and predominantly played that guitar for the rhythm on most things. I made like a collage of sounds for the solo section where I used a great resonator that Gerard Gilet made me in Sydney many years ago and a nylon string guitar that I got from Yamaha but predominantly Josie’s Strat on that song.

Steve James produced and engineered. What’s Steve’s production style like? What does he try to get out of the band in the studio?
I love Steve. From my perspective … he did the first two albums with the band before I came onboard, then we did one with a producer from Ireland then the next one with Steve again and it was my first time working with him. I just thought he was so good for the band. His flow of communication with Dave and Paul … he knows their nuances and the way they work. He has a great manner about him and can communicate what he doesn’t like without being confrontational. He has a great sense of musicality and sounds … obviously he’s a producer but it easier said than done sometimes. He really lets us evolve the track up in our own way and then he’s great at redirecting if he thinks the way we are going won’t get a positive outcome. You’ll hear this voice from the control room saying darlings, darlings I have an idea! He has the most inoffensive and politically correct way to direct a bunch of hot headed rockers at any time. But he has a great understanding of the band in the first place. He did the first two records, so in a way he was very present in the formation of The Jets sounds anyway.

Is there any particular track off the new album that audiences have really latched onto?
Before we released the album we went out and played quite a few tracks. We added about five tracks to the set. We just thought what the hell, let’s do it and see what sticks. We had a huge reaction to a number of songs. Razor was one of them and also a ballad called No Place, No Home and even though it is a slow tempo song, it has such an emotional and spooky vibe, that it instantly gets people in. When Paul first played it to me on acoustic guitar, I just said that’s an epic song. I play a solo on it and it is probably my favourite solo on the album too.

Who’s the most dedicated Screaming Jets fan you’ve ever come across?
We have a couple of hardcore fans don’t worry about that. I recall somebody asking me for an autograph on their arm on a weekend at one of my own gigs saying they were going to get it tattooed. I tried to talk them out of it and wouldn’t sign their arm … in a friendly way of course. I recall that we had a guy stick his arm in the car as we were leaving a venue and he asked us to sign his arm. We scribbled on his arm in a very haphazard way. We saw him later on and he had all the signatures tattooed on his arm. I’m like … dude? There really are some hardcore fans and you can tell by the tone of their discussion and the ongoing debate of what is the best album, the best line up. That only happens when you have a fanatical following. It’s a blessing that we have that but also a bit scary.

The Jets seem to release an album every 8 years. Is there talk of another?
Well, there is at the moment because the band is in a better place now than it has ever been. Like any band, we’ve had ups and downs over 26 years but since my return this is the longest lineup The Jets have ever had. We are older now, have families and other interests as well but we don’t have any negativity in the band and there have been phases where there was. Right now we are in a really good place and enjoy each others company and for all of these reasons there will be another album because that is the stuff that … when you are a group of people with push pull and that dynamic going on, it comes down to really personal stuff as to whether you go forwards or backwards. It almost doesn’t come down to the music. We have seen bands out there who have no rapport whatsoever make albums together, so you know, you can do it but the desire to want to do it and desire to write, all that stuff happens when you are personally in a good place … which we are.

What’s happening with your solo stuff at the moment?
Yes I am always chipping away at my stuff. The last two years we’ve had a baby so I am a late bloomer. My boy is 20 months now. So that has taken centre stage in my behind the scenes life so I haven’t been as productive as what I would have liked. Having said that, I did some recording with my dad in recent times at the age of 84 years young, which is more of a jazz blues thing. That’s out and called Home Cooking. I have also been working on a mandolin, acoustic guitar album which is nearing completion. I always feel like I cant move forward until I finish that album so I will get that happening and maybe then do a blues album with my band.

Any unfulfilled musical goals that you’d like to get to one day?
Every now and then I think about going back to some songs I started writing when I first come on the scene, which are rock but influenced by Frank Zappa as well as rock bands from the 80s and that kind of stuff. I was talking to Gerry Pantazis, the great drummer about it because he has such a great ear for that stuff and he keeps saying bring it on. I need to find time to compile these songs so I’d love to do that.

Go Hard Or Go Chrome tour dates:
Friday 7th October 2016
Hallam Hotel, HALLAM VIC

Saturday 8th October 2016
Gateway Hotel, GEELONG VIC

Friday 14th October 2016

Saturday 15th October 2016
Club Mulwala, MULWALA NSW

Friday 21st October 2016
Belmont 16s, BELMONT NSW

Saturday 22nd October 2016
Revesby Workers, REVESBY NSW

Thursday 27th October 2016
Kallangur Tavern, NORTH BRISBANE QLD

Friday 28th October 2016
Parkwood Tavern, GOLD COAST QLD

Saturday 29th October 2016
Racecourse Hotel, IPSWICH QLD

Sunday 30th October 2016
Redland Bay Hotel, EAST BRISBANE QLD

Thursday 3rd November 2016
Young Services Club, YOUNG NSW

Friday 4th November 2016

Saturday 5th November 2016

Saturday 26th November 2016

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