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Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips phones The Screaming Jets’ front man Dave Gleeson for a chin wag about the band’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Rampage tour and impending new album.

Two days prior to our chat, DAVE GLEESON had just come off an extensive tour fronting local rock legends The Angels. Just a few days after our interview he was due back out on the road with his original band, THE SCREAMING JETS on their Rock ‘n’ Roll Rampage tour.  It’s that eternal fire in Dave and his band mates’ bellies that has allowed The Jets to survive for 26 years and still be capable of pulling big crowds on a national tour consisting of more than 30 dates. It’s a testament to the band’s songs, live reputation and of course their loyal fans. And that not the end of it, they’ve just finished recording their 8th album and still dare to dream.

“I would love to play Castle Donington,” says Dave of one of the band’s unfulfilled ambitions. “One of the reasons that keeps us motivated and enthusiastic is that we still think that there’s an opportunity to get on to those big stages around the world and blow people away. I don’t think we have lost any of our live edge when it comes to that. We’re always hoping and put the feelers out and let people know that The Jets area band to be reckoned with still.”

On the eve of the Jets’ epic Rock ‘n’ Roll Rampage tour, which takes them right up until Christmas, I asked Dave what the starting point was for a Screaming Jets tour set list.
“Obviously there’s a body of songs that we know and songs that you have to play every night and that constitutes 50 or 60% of the set. We’ve got a new album coming so we will be popping a few songs off that in. Not too many because as a fan I know what it is like to go and see your favourite band and go, mate I don’t know any of your songs! We’ll get together a couple of days before hand, once we’ve got the set into some kind of order. We’ll get in the studio 2 days before the tour starts and spend some time jigging the set and see what’s working and what’s not. Then off we go and do it all again.”

Hows your voice holding up after all these years?
“Pretty good actually. I have just finished a run with The Angels where we have been doing 2 and a half hour two nights a week. Last week I did three.”

Has your voice changed much? Are you singing in different keys than you did when you were starting out?
“Funnily enough, with The Angels the keys are much more suited to my voice. Paul Woseen our bass player, songwriter extraordinaire … he writes for his voice, which is a much higher range than mine but we work that all out in the studio. Even though The Jets is my band, The Angels songs are more built into my DNA because I had been listening to them since I was 11 or 12 years old.

You’ve spent so much time on the road on many tours, what’s your favourite highway truck stop?
We stopped at Matilda at Gympie (13 metre high kangaroo and Commonwealth Games mascot) the other day. That’s not a bad one. They still have the big kangaroo out the back… but I am sure she used to be out the front!

It was probably a band like you guys that shifted it!
Yeah they just came in one day and found it after Rose Tattoo had been through town!

What’s been the worst band room you’ve come across?
I’m not going to name names but the worst ones are the ones with no toilet. Everyone has a nervous wee before they go on stage. There are some venues, that when I go there, I won’t drink out of the glasses because, um because a man has to go to the toilet before he goes on stage and any one of those glasses could have been used by me!

Anyone in the Jets ever done the cliche rock thing of throwing a TV into a swimming pool?
No but we have seen it happen on a few occasions. There was a band called Wolfsbain in the UK when we first went over there. They threw one out the window. I always found that you need to have the money on you to be able to do that. You don’t want to be going, oh take it off my credit card!

Plus you need the telly to watch …
Exactly, what else are you going to do in a crappy little hotel. I did see two well known Australian managers though. Myself and Suzi deMarchi were an item at the time and we were at a Noiseworks show in Melbourne, up near Parliament House. They were trying to get me and Nick Barker to throw a television out the window. I’m going, mate it is not my room. So these two managers grabbed a telly and just as they were about to throw it out the window, Eddie the bass player from The Baby Animals goes, NOT YET! There were people walking beneath and it wasn’t a flat screen, it was a big arsed telly. Funnily enough, it was the musicians who saved the day on that one.

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Which other band has been the most fun to tour with?
We did a ten date run through the UK with Ugly Kid Joe and Whitfield Crane, their singer was a mental patient mate. One day we were all sitting at this table at a Kensington hotel and we could feel this spattering on our legs. He was just having a piss under the table. He was an absolute animal. Anyone who said, don’t do that… it was like a red rag to a bull. He’d go, oh what? This? And do it. That was kind of fun because it was so outrageous and a little bit dangerous.

The old method of creating rock music was that you form a band, play your in your garage or local hall, then graduate to pubs and so on. With so many people creating electronic based music on their laptops in their bedroom or trying to get into the music business through shows like The Voice or X Factor, do you fear for the future of rock music?
I really do. In the sense that a lot of people have been hoodwinked into thinking that’s the way that you get noticed. Obviously it is to start with. Ellie (Drennan) got noticed and was number 25 on the chart last week. Anja Nissen who won The Voice last year is currently residing in the where is she now file. Harrison Craig won The Voice and got to hang out with Seal on a boat. It gives you this false sense that everyone is really interested in your career because a million people are watching per week and sending tweets. The reality is, for a 17 or 18 year old girl or whoever, to go out on the road, they then need to get the best band in town. So they’re going to be playing two grand a man to the band. So you get a band of ten people and there’s 20 grand to get on stage. It really is a false hope  for young musicians. But there are a lot of young bands out there trying to get supports again. Every time we go on tour, we get links to bands asking to go on tour with us. The good thing about rock now is that it is fresh. It’s not like anyone is competing for radio space because radio is not going to play it anyway. Hopefully people will realise the evil they hold in their hands with ukuleles! Stamp them all to death!

Do you remember the first gig you went to or the first time the music bug bit you?
Yeah. My sister and her boyfriend took me to see Jon English at the Cardiff Workers Club. He would have been in his 30s and he had a rockin’ band and great stage presence. He talked a lot to the crowd and I think I took a lot of that away from that show. If you are going to connect with a crowd, it’s good to let them know who you are. You can go the other way where you have that mystique about you like Doc had and Michael Hutchence or you can go the other way and say I’m like you but up here. If I wasn’t here, I’d be down there with you. I remember that very vividly. Jon English blew me mind!

You released the Scam album in 2000. Do Ya was 2008. It’s getting close to 8 years again!
I know. When we first signed our first deal with RooArt, the deal was by our 7th album, our advance was going to be one millions dollars or 75% of receipts of the previous album, whichever was greater. We thought as 21 years olds, 7 albums … that will be ten years, we’ll just split up a million bucks! Little did we know we were never going to get to a 7th album with Roo Art records, and we’ve only just recorded our 8th album and that’s 26 years on. It’s a funny old business. There were times there when we didn’t stop touring for 2 years so there was no time to record. But this album, we are stoked with. We’ve had this lineup the longest of all The Jets’ lineups, about 7 or 8 years now. We’re really happy with Paul’s songs and Jimi Hocking is at his smokin’ lead best. It’s a big fat rock record.

What’s Steve James production style like?
He is just a fantastic asset to have in the studio. The way record is that we get the drum and bass tracks first. The drums are the most important part. Steve is a drummer himself so he knows exactly what he wants and he communicates well with drummers, which is hard because they are all fruitcakes.  And everyone when it is their time to record, is 100% focussed on by Steve and he’s also a funny bastard. We have a really good time together every time we’re in the studio with him.

The working title of the album has changed a couple of times along the way …
Yeah. Kiss Me Between The Hangars has been my pick for an album title since day one. You can imagine back in the day when we were signed to record labels, the women were mortified when I came in and told them that’s what the album was going to be called. I even went to the extent of getting artwork drawn up with a  pilot in 50s mould leaning up against an aircraft hangar with a chick giving him a kiss and you can see the other hangar on the other side but they thought it was just not right.

Not aviation fans?
Exactly! I think I will have to hold Kiss Me Between The Hangars for my autobiography! That’s generally what I say to the music industry as a whole!

I know Paul Woseen has written a lot of songs for you. What about when you write, do you play guitar or piano?
I play guitar and most of my songs come out as country songs. One of things I do enjoy about having a mobile phone is that an idea will come to me and I will be bale to sing it into the phone, then either get Paul or Jimi to bang it into shape.

What is your main guitar?
I’ve got a Maton which I have had for 17 years. I have a really nice Yamaha which I have had for 5 or 6 years. I have a few Danelectro electrics, a ’59 reissue, a ’71 reissue, the one that The Edge played, a white one. I like those guitars. I know they are not high end but they have a certain jangle quality that I like.

What are you most proud of musically?
The first time you get a gold record, it’s like all your dreams coming true. I grew up watching Molly giving out gold records and I used to think, well that’s got to be the pinnacle. To receive that first gold record and then go platinum, that’s something I definitely look back on … you know, a bunch of blokes from Newcastle who were able to achieve that, was a proud moment.

Visit the Screaming Jets website for Rock ‘n’ roll Rampage tour dates

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