Aria Icons Dragon are arguably one of New Zealand/Australia’s best ever rock bands, one thing there is NO argument about is they are one of countries HARDEST working bands. Jodie Bellchambers fired off a few questions to Todd Hunter before their much anticipated appearance at Jupiter’s Casino for the Gold FM live show.
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How are you enjoying these shows and being able to reconnect with some of his old friends many he has not seen in a long time.
“I love these shows they are great fun it’s a really good vibe and the crowd loves it, you can see them singing along to every song. It’s great catching up with the other band’s when you’re in a band you don’t get to see other bands it’s really quite solitary and these opportunities are great when it does happen its good fun”. When I remarked on their changing dress sense Todd laughed and reflected on the “evolution of the threads” “yeah everything has moved on from the wardrobe excesses of the 80’s and 90’s or should I say wardrobe malfunctions”.
You recently commented in another interview that you had more energy now than you did when you were 20, what do you attribute that to?
“ The way you play music has changed when you play verses its really quiet you just hit the chorus as hard as you can to get everyone levitating up and down, quite often we play festivals the crowds are a lot younger and they look at music in a different way so you have to get everyone moving vertically as one – whereas in the 70’s it was much more like a funk kind of thing like a sway you just re-interpret the songs differently all of the time.
The Hunter brothers grew up on the North Island of New Zealand surrounded by music both their parents were Jazz musicians, the Maori culture is also heavily influenced by music and dance. Do you think this fusion of influence shaped your personal musical style?
“Mum was a jazz musician she was part Fijian and used to play Boogie Woogie on the piano to us and sang harmonies. We also grew up right in the middle of the King country and we would go and play and sing at Maori funerals and we played at parties and stuff it was great. Definitely the harmonies, the South Sea harmonies of Dragon were influenced by that”.
Dragon had many band members come and go some happily and some very sadly, do you think all of these collaborations with such talented musicians and writers was the formula for such a remarkable long-lasting career?
“ It helped the songs – we have co-written with a lot of women (Sharon O’Neill and Joanna of course) which gives the songs something that is not dated. Women’s songwriting makes it more universal rather than it coming from a male standpoint at any point in time it can age really quickly, lyrically too it helps as well. Having said that the line-up has settled down we have had 40 people through the band over 40 years but over the last 10 years it’s been just the one line up, so most stable of them all and we have played over 670 shows over that time.”
Indeed the lineup has settled down in 2006 Todd Hunter reformed Dragon with Mark Williams, Bruce Reid and Pete Drummond and they have not stopped working.
“Mark Williams was a solo guy you would know his hit song Show no mercy, Bruce Reid came from Wendy Matthews band he is a Canadian and he bought the Drummer Pete Drummond he’s played with everyone including Kasey Chambers we basically have been doing Dragon for the last 10 years”. Todd told me they were actually about to have a 2 week mid-year break after playing over 670 shows with the new formation. “We haven’t had a weekend off for 2 years after which we recommence touring and don’t have a weekend off until March next year. 1-2 shows every weekend at the moment so it’s constant our ambition was to be a working band we would just play no matter where it is”. It works really well everyone likes each other and nobody does just one thing so it’s more than the sum of the parts really big sound for just 4 guys on stage.
Todd if you could indulge my curiosity! I was wondering if you ever did get to feel the April Sun in Cuba on your face and if you didn’t is it a country that would interest you to visit?
“Ha Yeah a lot of my friends have been to Cuba and absolutely love it, it’s an incredibly beautiful sort of run down creative place and it is somewhere I would like to go but it’s so far away”.
Touching on the current Australian music scene, is there a lot of music you are enjoying hearing?
“Hearing a lot of really good stuff with a lot of joy in it and I think that music is in a really good place. When you are a musician you don’t tend to listen to a lot of music, much like when I was doing TV sound tracks, I could hear the direction in the background. I’m more interested in listening to stuff that surprises me that I haven’t heard before. If you stumble across people who love what they are doing you can’t help but love it as well.”
When I asked Todd if he knew who the mystery guest was for the Jupiter’s performance he is as much in the dark as the punters but he thinks this is a good thing as he enjoys surprises.
Todd and the energetic line up of Dragon are really looking forward to coming up to Jupiters “it’s a lovely spot we can’t wait to get up there to play.”
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Gold FM Live featuring 1927, Sharon O’Neill, Eurogliders, The Chantoozies, Mi-Sex, Swannee, Dragon, Gang Gajang, Kings of the Sun and Pseudo Echo hits Jupiters on 28 August.