Legendary Sydney punkers the Hard-Ons are about to resurface upon the musical landscape off the back of their just-released new album, ‘So I Could Have Them Destroyed’.
The band are renowned for covering off most bases in the pantheon of amped up guitar music, from melodically charged garage rock through to edgy punk-pop and metal-tinged thrash, all done with typical hair twirling vigour and with the humour and irreverence that has long been the band’s trademark. In short, the new album shreds, and is without a doubt one of the finest across their illustrious 35+ year tenure in the biz… which is saying a lot!
And on 22 November they’ll be hitting Vinnies Dive Bar to showcase the album, as well as delivering a broad smattering of back catalogue gems. In the lead up, founding bassist and all-round good guy, Ray Ahn, took time out to answer a few questions.
You’ve just dropped studio album number 12, ‘So I Could Have Them Destroyed’, which I’ve heard described as not sounding like any of your other albums, while distilling the best elements from all of them. What are your thoughts on it? Are you pleased with how it turned out from a production perspective? And where do you rate it in the pantheon of Hard-Ons releases?
We are very happy with this release. I think we managed to get the balance right, largely thanks to the input of producer Lachlan Mitchell. Often in the past we’ve buried the vocals and drums in favour of a lot of guitars and although that gives you an outrageously insane sound, we wanted the melodies and rhythm highlighted on this album. We find that getting the balance right is very challenging and we rely heavily on the outside ear for guidance. Luckily, producer Lachlan is very familiar with our band and has a very similar outlook on what works well and what does not, for our band. It is certainly my favourite Hard-ons album so far, but nobody goes out promoting their “3rd worst album”, it is always the best one so far.
Can you give us a bit of a rundown on how the record came together? Have you been stockpiling tracks for a while or did the newies come about via a more rapid bout of creative purging?
The band should get together to rehearse more often. But the reality is that we all have family lives and we all play in multiple bands. The last album came out in 2014 and that seems only like yesterday. In fact it was five years ago. The whole while, we continued playing live. A lot of the songs benefitted from being constantly road-tested. By the time we went to record, we knew the songs were good and that we knew how to play them. There were a bunch that we were not as familiar with. But, we are familiar with each other in a band setting so we had to back ourselves to play the songs well. Blackie wrote all but one of the tracks on the album. Keish, who rejoined the band full-time late early 2015, came up with one.
You’ll shortly be touring the record far and wide across the country, with a pair of shows up our way in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast, at hot new venue Vinnies Dive Bar. Across the life of the band you’ve played here on the Gold Coast many a time – do you have a favourite Gold Coast venue or a gig in particular that stands out for you across the times you’ve played here over your career?
We do enjoy playing the Gold Coast a lot. In a lot of ways, the Gold Coast remains an exotic location for the band. We mainly grew up in the outer south-west of Sydney away from the beaches. Therefore, the whole carefree lifestyle on the beach just seems a little foreign to us, to this day. But always, the shows have been good up there. We used to play The Playroom a lot. We always had good shows in that venue. I can’t recall too many bad shows on the Gold Coast but the Playroom shows and also the shows at The Patch in Coolangatta were always fun. The best time we had at The Playroom was probably when we supported The Ramones. It was insane fun!
Once your upcoming touring commitments are complete, are there any plans to get back overseas and play some shows again?
The Hard-ons are always looking to play overseas. Next year we are looking to play Japan and also parts of Europe. We went to Finland in 2019 but in reality, we’ve not played Scandinavia much since 2009. It is a real shame, because that part of the world is a fascinating place to tour, it is an out-of-this-world experience. Our 2020 tour of Europe will be the 20th time the Hard-ons have travelled to Europe to play, so that will be pretty good going for a relatively unknown band from Australia.
Are you enjoying the vibe of being a four piece again now that Keish is back in the fold?
I like playing in a band with Keish – his vocals add a fair bit to the band and it enhances a real strength of the band – the melodic aspect. Having said that, there is nothing like playing in a three-piece band. It is totally magical. There is something very strong about it – no member can hide anywhere so each member has to really do their job well. Playing in three-piece bands has taught me and Blackie about bass and guitar and their roles, and how we can make things sound interesting. We have taken the lessons we learnt playing in three piece line-ups and we can apply that now to this line-up, and hopefully it sounds convincing.
Is there a finite date for the band, or is a case of ‘rock till you drop’?
There is never a finite time for this band. It has been going on and off since 1982. If we all stop next week, what does it matter any way, we would have had a decent run. The truth is, we have no idea when we will stop. Especially when there is always the chance that we’ll be on a plane sometime in the future travelling to say, Japan.
While Europe, and maybe even Japan, beckons in 2020, for November the Hard-Ons will be rocking out on a full scale national tour, taking in Vinnes Dive Bar in Southport on 22 November. They’ll also be playing on 23 November at The Foundry in Brisbane as part of ‘Punkfest’.