A to Z of The Angels

Influential Aussie rock legends The Angels have been kicking ass for over 40 years now.

Their current A-Z tour, as the title suggests, sees them delve deep into their back catalogue playing one song for each letter of the alphabet plus a couple for the encore. A two and a half hour show is no mean feat for any band but hey this is The Angels.

Blank’s funnyhairyman catches up with founding member and guitarist John Brewster for the lowdown on old hits, new music and golf with Alice Cooper.

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FHM –The Angels have been part of Australia’s musical landscape for over 40 years now… do you ever take time to look back over your career and reminisce?

JB – We are actually celebrating 41 years now as a band and there have definitely been a lot of fantastic memories. You could say a rollercoaster ride with some good and some bad memories but in terms of gigs throughout the whole thing it’s been amazing and still is. A great career.

The reason were doing the A-Z tour is that we have so many songs that people love it’s hard to know what to leave out. We are playing one song for each letter of the alphabet plus a couple of encores so it’s a long show of over 28 songs and two and a half hours. We’ve tried it out already and it’s been fantastic.

We wanted to be able to do some songs we don’t do very often and some songs from the new album. We didn’t have a song for Z so we went into the studio and did a version of ZZ tops’ La Grange so we finish the show with that.

We start the show with Am I Ever going to see You Face Again which is weird because its usually what we finish the show with.

FHM – It’s certainly taken on a life of its own that song hasn’t it. It’s become part of Australian folklore almost?

JB – It’s amazing to think that it was the very first single we ever released! It’s appropriate to start the show with it and of course the crowd tell us to do what they tell us to do and it’s all good fun. Strangely enough it wasn’t actually very successful when we initially released it but what’s happened is that it’s gotten bigger and bigger over the years and its now probably our most successful song.

FHM – You have actually revisited it for your latest single, also.

JB – Yeah and we did it exactly the same way. We went into an analogue studio in the Adelaide Hills, did the same arrangement as the original on an analogue master tape, mixed it down to a ½ inch and pressed it out as a 7 inch single so it was great. We had an audience in there when we did it too. It was a really fun thing to do.

FHM – The A-Z tour is underway at the moment with dates all across Australia and shows in London, Paris and Sweden.

JB- We were asked to do a huge rock festival in Sweden which we are pretty excited about and then another couple of offers came in one from London and one from Paris. We never really thought we would go overseas again, we’ve done pretty well overseas actually a lot bigger than people realise so were really excited about it.

FHM – Great to still be doing something new and getting new opportunities at this stage of your career.

JB – Were just loving this band at the moment! As you know there has been some tragedies in the last few years with the loss of Chris Bailey (bass) in 2013 and then of course Doc Neeson, who Rick and I stared the band with in 1974. It was really sad to see his demise. Doc has three great sons and we’ve been in constant contact with them and caught up with them so we don’t lose that connection. It’s really important to us.

FHM – Have those experiences in the last few years shaped or influenced newer songs, is there any hint of a new album coming out with that sort of theme or reflection?

JB – Absolutely, the thing is Doc Neeson left the band in 2010 and we got lucky, through pure serendipity we got Dave Gleeson joining us. The first thing we wanted to do was write and record some new music so we did an album with him called Take it to the Streets and then another one called Talk the Talk, which in my opinion is one of the best albums wave ever done.

It’s critically important that The Angels continue and we go forward. When we play live we always play all the old songs because that’s what people come to see but we always play some of the new ones too. The song Talk the Talk has actually become a live favourite and another of the big Angels’ songs.

FHM – As musicians it’s important to continue to grow and create?

JB – Absolutely, especially for my brother Rick and myself who are the last original members. It’s been great having newer members in the band, my son Sam is playing bass now and he’s fantastic, we have a great young drummer Nick Norton who is amazing and of course Dave Gleeson who brings his own thing to the party, he’s a real larrikin, a great front man and musically he’s fantastic, just a wonderful voice.

FHM – And most importantly he’s got the rock hair which is important.

JB – yeah he’s great.

FHM – You have played with your brother for many years now and now Sam your son is in the band. It’s not something too many father and sons get to share. It must be a unique experience?

JB – It’s absolutely great. He’s a fantastic bass player and actually an amazing guitar player. He picked up the bass when Chris got sick and it’s not an easy transition but he’s handled it very well. I actually have another two sons and we play together as the Brewster Brothers with them on drums and guitar so for me that’s an amazing experience.

FHM – No lawyers or accountants in the Brewster clan then?

JB – No, we are all tarred with the musical brush. Starting with my grandfather who was a composer and my father who was a lead cellist with a symphony orchestra and musical director at the ABC, so that’s the family we grew up in. I don’t like to push my kids into music, that’s just the way it’s worked out, which is great.

FHM – The Angels have been namechecked as influences by such bands as Guns ‘n’ Roses, Pearl Jam and Nirvana. It must be very satisfying to know that your music has had such a far reaching influence?

JB – Yeah, Dave Grohl is another one, he’s a big fan apparently. His father took him to a show of ours in Seattle and he loved us. We always did very well in certain regions in America, Seattle and Detroit especially. It’s just so hard for an Australian band to tour over there with an Australian crew and not come back in debt which is disappointing.

FHM – All musicians are fans of music and are influenced by others so who are your musical heroes?

JB- Well, strangely enough my biggest influence in life has been Bob Dylan, which is funny because we’re form very different musical streets. I’ve loved Dylan since I was a kid and even saw him last year and he was amazing. The Beatles of course, I know it ages me but I saw them, didn’t hear them because of all the girls screaming. The Stones also, love them and saw them at their last show at the Adelaide Oval and they were just incredible, possibly the best I’ve ever seen them. It just proves a great rock and roll band never ages.

FHM – While keeping that artistic drive also?

JB – Absolutely, you have to want to do it. We’re having a very happy time with The Angels at the moment and been since Dave Gleeson joined the band. We’re a really good team, and you need to be a team, if you go out there on the road and it’s not happening personally then it really shows in the performance.

FHM – Do you spend time listening to music?

JB – I mean I listen to music in my car and stuff but I’m probably more passionate about playing golf at the moment. I’m a mad golfer.

FHM – Really, leather studded gold bag? What handicap are you on?

JB – I’m on an eight.

FHM – Wow, you’re doing great then. Any handicap under a ten is very good

JB – I love the game, its just one of those things, it’s not seen as a very rock and roll thing to do but I have played six rounds of golf with Alice Cooper so how credible is that!

FHM – Really? Alice Cooper is a huge golf fan isn’t he?

JB – Yes and a very good player.

FHM – So do we keep a look out for the Cooper / Brewster Gold Invitational?

JB – Ha! That would be great wouldn’t it?

Iain Wright

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The Angels continue their A-Z tour with shows at the Hamilton Hotel on Friday 1 May and Twin Towns on Saturday 2 May. Get all the tour details at theangels.com.au.

Photo Credit: Mudgee Guardian

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