Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Detonators: Rockabilly Thunder From Down Under

The following is an interview I did with Paulie Bignell from The Detonators about 3 years ago. The band is back and better than ever, so I figured I'd share this "long lost interview."

The northern hemisphere isn't the only place you'll find music steeped in roots rock. There's an island to the south you may have heard of called Australia. That's where you'll find the door slammin', rubber burning, gear grinding sound of The Detonators!

Fans have claimed the band plays an era, not simply a genre. The Dets has taken the traditional sound of rockabilly music and fused it with their own style giving it a inimitable driving energy while staying true to the spirit of their heroes.

The band consists of ‘Rockbottom’ James Moloney belting out vocals and harmonica, Paulie “The Kid” Bignell on guitar, and ’Doghouse’ Dave Philpots on upright. Yes they have a drummer, but it's a rotating set of A-listers who play when available.

The Detonators formed in 1997 in Melbourne and five albums out, you'd think this was enough for these rockers. They tour Australia aggressively, have had their songs featured in television shows, and have even gone overseas to find new fans. Not to mention individual awards won by the band, such as Rockbottom James' Golden Harmonica award and Doghouse Dave's Yamaha endorsement.

They are the "High Priests of roots rock 'n' roll", the kings of down under blazing jump blues thunder. Each album from the band is, "A combination of flat chat rockabilly, laced with extra serves of twanging slapping roots rock ‘n’ roll, sprinkled with a touch of down home blues."

Taking a break from working in Australia's hardest working and most popular rockabilly band, Paulie took a moment to answer a few questions for the magazine's final issue. Having been a huge fan of the band for years, this was a real treat for me.

Reverend Andy: How did the band originally get together?
Paulie "The Kid" Bignell: Myself and Rockbottom were playing in a blues band together for around five years. I talked him into doing something combining that, with rockabilly and rock 'n' roll and coming up with original tunes. We had a shuffle drummer at reach and found our upright bass man, so away we went!

RA: What was it like when you finally got to record?
PB: It was a buzz! We recorded our first release on a 4-track machine in the drummer's girlfriend's bungalow. As soon as we were playing we were thinking of recording. We also rehearsed in the bungalow, so we were used to the sound of it. I dig the whole process and there is always more to learn. Learn to play better and it will sound better.

RA: What keeps you motivated when you're facing the worst?
PB: The music. As soon as i count the first song in, I drift to a different place. The playing has to get you through or it ain't worth doing.

RA: Any back story to "My Saving Grace?" I ask because it's my favorite Dets song and would love to know if there was an inspiration for it.
PB: It's pretty much true, I guess. I would probably be locked up by now if it wasn't for rock 'n' roll. Music can fix things!

RA: Maybe a new album, soon?
PB:We have demos of half an album and material for the rest but the time is not right just yet. We will have to get that new CD out before we tackle overseas again. We did some shows in Europe a few years back and it was a blast. I'll go anytime come to think of it!

RA: How do you get inspired to write songs?
PB: Sometimes a lyric I've heard either myself or somebody else say, sometimes a riff leads me to somewhere. Just depends, different approaches give different results.

RA: What's the writing process like for The Dets?
PB: We all write so it varies on what we start with. Sometimes we start with nothing, sometimes its a done deal before we start.

RA: What's the roots scene like in Australia?
PB: It's okay. There is usually something going on.

RA: Are you guys a commodity or are there plenty of roots-based bands to play with?
PB: There is some great roots bands in Oz in all styles. We are lucky enough to live in Melbourne which is with out a doubt the music capital, but still the other states have plenty of talent. There are probably a few good bands in each style I guess, same as most places I think.

RA: What do you think about the state of mainstream music as opposed to underground scenes?
PB: The underground can't be doing any worse than ever so its probably okay at the moment with the big boys feeling the pinch.

RA: Do you think people who focus on bland mainstream bands just don't realize there are thousands of incredible bands they're missing out on?
PB: If they like that stuff they probably shouldn't stray too's that radio commercial sound they like. They should go and see bands, local for a start. There are great bands hidden all over the world of all styles.

RA: School me on the rockabilly/roots scene in your neck of the woods.
PB:  We've got good beer... I find scenes to be pretty consistent in most places I've been, depending on the population, ours are just farther apart. It takes a few more beers to get anywhere.

Upcoming gigs:
Fri 6th, Tago Mago,
744 High St, Thornbury 9.30pm

Fri 13th, Brycees Tavern
30 Brice Ave, Mooroolbark 9pm

Sun 22nd, Ferntree Gully Hotel,
Ferntree Gully 4pm

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