Aussie pub-punk legends The Cosmic Psychos are defiantly one of a kind, their sound having once been described by Melvins lynchpin Buzz Osborne as “late ’70s punk rock, played through a stereo, inside the muffler of a car driving down the freeway.” And just like in the world of seminal New York punks The Ramones, not too much has tended to change when it comes to their sonic template.
The hard drinking and harder rocking trio, these days consisting of founding member, vocalist and bassist Ross Knight, guitarist John ‘Mad Macka’ McKeering and drummer Dean Muller, are currently enjoying somewhat of a second renaissance, with a new wave of up and coming young bands and punters igniting the fuse for The Psychos to play and record now more than ever before.
I pose the question to Knight, who pulls over his trusty bulldozer to have an amiable chat when I call him, as to whether the band have been invigorated by the attention and respect afforded to them by the new, younger breed of fans that have latched onto the band recently.
“I think when our doco (the thoroughly entertaining ‘Blokes You Can Trust’) came out, it definitely raised the profile of the band. These days we’re probably getting just as much fun from picking good young bands to play with on the road. Hopefully our influence on young bands will be along the lines of; enjoy the moment, don’t give up your day job, and always say thank you at the end of the night after you’ve drunk a squillion free beers. We have a great time playing, we really do. And it’s great to see that the current flock of younger bands are just doing it because they love it too. And that’s a good thing, a real good thing.”
In the midst of a full scale national tour taking in a squillion towns both big and small, I ask Ross how the crowds have taken to the new songs off their recently released new record, ‘Loudmouth Soup’.
“It seems to be with the modern world, people know the songs before we do. Like always, whenever The Psychos come up with a new album we do it on the spot, then we have to learn the songs. One day I’m gonna have to listen to the CD and see how it sounds.”
One of the tracks off the new record, ‘Rat On The Mat’ happens to be a homage to good pals and young upstarts The Dune Rats, who The Psychos toured with not so long ago. I asked Ross what ‘The Dunies’ made of the track.
“When we did the tour with the Dune Rats, I basically came up with that song in the van with them, drinking stubbies at 9 o’clock in the morning, driving to Margaret River. We’d all had about one hours sleep, and I just started humming that little ditty, because I was looking at these scraggly blokes, sweaty headed, all stinking like the night before, all having a giggle and a laugh. They just reminded me of what you find on your front doormat when your cat brings home a dead rat. They’ve taken it as the true tribute that it was intended to be.”
The past few releases from the band have seen their two other members, ‘Macka’ and Dean, having more of an input into the vibe and sound of the band. I put it to Ross if this was a conscious decision to hand over some of the artistic reigns, so to speak.
“Oh mate, encouragement, encouragement, encouragement. Because the more stuff that they do, sing and play, the less I have to do. It’s all about ‘passive income’ I think they call it. In fact I don’t tour anymore, I just send a hologram of myself, standing there like a bloody clown. That’s all I have to do now”, jokes Knight with his trademark deadpan wit.
Beer is a subject close to the band’s DNA – the title of their new album, ‘Loudmouth Soup’ is in fact a slang term for the amber liquid. So the topic inevitably rears it’s head during the course of our chat. And Knighty sets the record straight on just what type of beer he’s most partial to.
“I’m a great believer that beer should be drunk to excess. A lot of brewers put a lot of heart and soul into their beers, but for me, there’s a little bit too much smashed avo or passionfruit in some of them. In saying that, when I’m designated driver, I’ll drink a few craft beers. If people want to sit around and talk about themselves and sip that type of stuff, that’s fine. Whatever floats your boat. All due respect to those that brew them, beer is a great thing to be passionate about. But I’m a simple man with simple tastes.”
15 years, a million beers – these immortal words have become somewhat of a Psychos manifesto, derived from an album celebrating the first part of the band’s existence (‘career’ would be somewhat of a misnomer), all the way back in 1991. I ask Ross that seeing it’s now over 32 years since the band started smashing tinnies and torching amps, whether two million beers would be a fair summation of the band’s legendary beer drinking exploits.
“It’s funny, as only the Cosmic Psychos can do, by the time that album came out, it was actually nearly 18 years since we started! It took us so long to getting around to doing it, so you can probably add a few more beers and a few more beer bruises on our livers to the current tally as well.”
I then take Knighty back in time, to the far flung reaches of the mid 90’s, when the band played a show at the Shark Bar (where they’ll once again be on 20 May) together with another seminal Aussie band, Magic Dirt. I was at this show, where a strapping young lad that looked a lot like a young, fit version of current guitarist ‘Mad Macka’, was filling in for their permanent guitarist at the time, the sadly deceased Robbie Watts. Knighty fills me in on how this may have come about.
“Macka played over 60 gigs with us while Robbie was still in the band. There were certain times when Robbie just wasn’t able to tour. So Macka filled in, just as only Macka can. You look back at some of those photos from that time, and geez, he was a good looking rooster back in those days, wasn’t he!?”
One of the most interesting side-line stories that appears in the bands documentary, ‘Blokes You Can Trust’, is of Ross’s passion for weight lifting, having achieved success in competing in niche tournaments both in Australia and overseas.
“Unfortunately I got myself into a bit of a pickle, as my body is letting me down. I used to train very hard, and I also used to drink very hard. And eventually the rubber band has to break. And that’s what it did. So anytime I get myself into any form with lifting heavier weights, the body just gives way. That’s what happens when you get old.
“A man has got to know his limitations”, as Clint Eastwood said.”
I conclude by asking ‘Knighty’ if one of my personal favourite tracks of theirs, ‘Rain Gauge’ would be any chance of turning up in their set-list again anytime soon.
“The problem is, we don’t rehearse – haven’t for years. But when we do, we usually give that one a bit of a run. We might actually one day bother to do a sound check. So it doesn’t take much – you know how technical our songs are, you need a 58 piece string section to make it happen. But I don’t mind that song myself, so yeah, it’s about time it had another run.”
Thank your mum for the rabbits, because it’ll sure be a nice day to go to the pub, aka The Miami Shark Bar, on Sunday, 20 May, to catch the one and only Cosmic Psychos, as they bust eardrums and livers in equal measure off the back of their ‘Loudmouth Soup’ national tour.
They’ll also be playing two nights before, on Friday 18 May at The Triffid, in Brisbane. Both shows will also feature cracking sets by The Chats (owners of that bratish-ly catchy ditty ‘I’m On Smoko’) as well as hard rocking Byron Bay miscreants DickLord.
IMAGE (c) Kane Hibberd