It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since melodically infused punk rock institutions Hard-Ons first started kicking out the jams and shredding eardrums across the musical landscape. During the first ten years of their existence the band achieved an incredible (and record breaking) 17 consecutive number one singles on the Australian alternative music charts, as well as building a rabid underground European following. Not a bad effort for a Croat, a Sri Lankan and a Korean from Punchbowl in Sydney!
On the eve of their special run of reunion shows featuring the band’s original line up of Peter ‘Blackie’ Black, Ray Ahn and Keish De Silva, as well as current member Murray Ruse, Anthony Gebhardt snuck in a chat with the legendary guitarist ‘Blackie’ himself…
One of my most memorable concert experiences was seeing you guys together with The Ramones at The Playroom way back in 1991. Do you remember this show? Did you get to hang out with ‘Da Bruddas’ during the tour, or any other time? And if so what were they like?
That was a pretty special tour for us! When we met them the first time Joey came straight up saying “hey I like you guys and play you on my (radio) show in New York” as you can imagine we were…CHUFFED. CJ hung around a lot with us and stayed at my house. I know there was a lot of weird internal conflicts in the band but I got along with all of ‘em. But now that I think about it whenever I was chatting to either Joey or Johnny the other wouldn’t be around. But to me they were all really ace to us… and they really are FUCKING LEDGENDS!!
Any particularly memorable or infamous Gold Coast concert experiences that come to mind back over the years?
Many! One gig at Coolangatta really stands out as being over the fucking top and all the early shows we used to play with Thrust were killer! We had Brendan from Thrust in our band when we were starting out in school so they were fun but… the ones I remember the most were probably at The Playroom. That venue was so OLD SCHOOL haha, a kinda Oz Rock relic that for some reason we always did well in.
Has the ‘original line up’ clicked into gear and gelled like the old days so far in practice?
We haven’t practiced much yet haha! Not that we are slack but we’ve been recording a new album and that’s been the main focus, but Keish did come in and sing on a few tracks 🙂 Don’t worry, we now have time to practice together. It’s gonna be great of course.
So will Keish just be singing (as opposed to playing drums and singing) on this tour?
Keish will be out front dancing his arse off!
You guys always seemed to have a big underground following in obscure European musical markets such as Greece and Spain. Do you ever get random offers out of the woodwork to tour these parts of the world again?
We still tour Europe all the time. We will be there again this coming September and October, as well as in Japan in August.
What about the US market, did you guys ever get a foothold there?
America has been harder, with some bad luck coming our way over there. Mind you our last tour there was awesome, with a great band called The Queers. We do have plans to head back there next year.
I read that you even had a UK tribute band in your honour called Suck and Swallow! Did you ever see these guys, and if so were they any chop?
Haha I have not had the pleasure. I did hear a tribute 7 inch single that was done in France and I know there is a Spanish one in the works. I kept getting emails asking for lyrics to particular song for weeks on end! I had to tell some of ’em that I have no idea what I sang, so “feel free to make shit up!”
You guys also have a great track record with reinterpreting classic 60’s garage (It’s Cold Outside, By My Side). Will any of these gems be getting an airing during the current tour?
With so many great songs of our own it would be a shame! It would be a waste and it would be a tragedy to waste time on anything else!!
Does playing with The Hard-Ons provide you with your greatest musical fulfilment, or has one of your other projects assumed that mantle now?
I love all my bands and solo project equally. Each one is different (in my mind anyway!) and gives me what I need. Nunchukka Superfly has more artistic freedom and we set out to keep that from the start. There was a point when we realised the Hard Ons were expected to stay within a certain parameter and… well after a BIG THINK we came to see that as its own musical challenge! Playing solo is great ’cause it’s raw and immediate… a new challenge as well. We just LOVE music big time and are greedy to do as much as possible!!!
I read with interest that you recorded some tracks in 2008 with (alternative US comedian) Neil Hamburger on guest lead vocals! How did an unusual collaboration such as this come about?
Oh boy were we stoked to do that!! Well we have been friends and mutual fans for a long LONG time so it just fell into place. Coming up on one of the split 7 inch records we’re doing (as a birthday pressie to us!) is a single with the one and only Neil Hammmmmmmburger!! Look out for it!
Blackie a personal question if I may – are you fully recovered now from your taxi ordeal? (back in 2012 two reprehensible cretins bashed him while he was working his ‘day job’ driving cabs) Was there ever a worry that you wouldn’t be able to play music anymore as a result of it? And do you still drive cabs again now?
Pretty much, but I still get vertigo/dizziness from time to time, which hangs around for a four to five day period. Once again I thank everyone for the incredible support I was given which got me through it in no time at all. YOU GUYS ROCK and yes I still drive a taxi, unfortunately rock and rock don’t pay the rent!
Do you still feel energised and inspired by cutting edge/underground music in this day and age? Any personal faves currently floating your boat?
Always! There’s still so many new things popping up keeping music alive and well. Underground rock is really underground these days but when I’m in Brissie and see a band like Hits or FAT, or in Melbourne and see Wicked City or Dead or Clowns… you know it’s far from being a stale period! The music that connects with ya when you’re a teen really has a lasting effect but we’ll never stop checking out new stuff.
If someone had told you back in 1984 that you’d reach the 30 year milestone as a band, what would you have said to them?
More than likely!
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The Hard Ons are bringing their very special brand of melodic mayhem to our parts during June. These one-off reunion sets will consist only of songs from the period 1984 – 1993 and will be made up of songs most requested by fans in an online poll! So be sure to get along to one of the following dates with the guys:
June 19: The Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay
June 20: The Coolangatta Hotel
June 21: Prince of Wales, Brisbane
If you make it to the Coolie Hotel gig be sure to get along early to catch the full line up, which includes ace local punk rockers Loud Goes Bang, Raygun Mortlock and Brissie legends Hits.