The Hoodoo Gurus burst onto the Australian music scene with their unique brand of psychedelic pop in the early eighties and hits like ‘Wipe Out’, ‘What’s My Scene’ and ‘Miss Freelove ‘69’ still sound as fresh and funky today as they did back then.
In 1997, the band called it quits but, after a hard earned hiatus of four years, they were back once more, making the music we all love to hear. Now, in 2010, with the release of their ninth album, ‘Purity of Essence’, the Hoodoo Gurus are hitting the road again. Lead singer, Dave Faulkner, says that the tour has been going well so far. “We’ve been selling out shows and people love the new album and everything you want to have happening is all there. And, of course, we’re playing well!” he laughs. “It’s not enough to get everyone there; you’ve got to entertain them once they are there! We do a bunch of the new songs and of course pick amongst the many past ones that people want to hear as well and there’s always a lot of that.”
The band did take a few requests through their Facebook page for a while there, to find the songs that people wanted to hear at their gigs. “It was just an idea I had,” explains Dave, “that people might want to make suggestions of songs like the less known ones because we know the big hits that people want to hear but someone might want to hear a song that might be someone’s personal favourite that we might not play as often and we try to put it in for people who are going to be at certain gigs.”
The exercise didn’t hold any big surprises for the band. “There were some that we were hoping wouldn’t be asked for, songs that were quite difficult to play or we haven’t played for so long that we had to sort of relearn them,” Dave tells me, “but, by and large, it was pretty much songs that weren’t too hard but it was interesting to learn what are some people’s favourite songs, that’s for sure. The hardest thing was when they asked for too many ballads. There are certain songs that are ballads that we play and if we try to get a couple more in, it can get a bit too morose. It’s a bit easier for us when it’s an up tempo song that people can really enjoy.”
While Dave claims there was no clear favourite, one song did get a few mentions. “A song called ‘Nobody’ came up a few times, which is a ballad and that’s a bit obscure. Some people went really far out and found the most crazy songs that we do. A song called ‘Mind the Spider’ was requested. We didn’t do ‘Mind the Spider’ but we did ‘Nobody’ once or twice.”
He says that The Hoodoo Gurus’ shows have not changed a great deal over the years. “We always play the songs that we’re famous for because we feel a bit of an obligation to play what people have grown up with and come to love from the band and a healthy smattering of new stuff and the things that float our boat, things that are not quite as well travelled.”
It seems that the band has also earned itself an international following and they will be heading off to do a couple of gigs overseas later in the year. “Yeah, we’ve got a bit of a tour. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have enough time to get to all the fans that are demanding gigs, particularly parts of the U.S. and Scandinavia and the U.K…. we’re only doing one show in London which is kind of sad. We’re really just touching the surface but better than nothing I suppose. We’ve had a bit of airplay in the past and a cult following, if you like. And we toured there in the past and we worked on the reputation we had after that. I guess that the band has some kind of profile globally really.”
It has been quite a long wait between albums for the Hoodoo Gurus. “That’s my fault,” Dave admits, “I’ve been preoccupied with various things in my life, some of which were very important, some of which were unimportant but for one reason or other, I just couldn’t get it to work but I finally got it together and we’re very happy.”
Their single, ‘Crackin’ Up’, has been selling well. Dave says that the idea came to him in a dream. “Not just the idea but pretty much the whole song. It was like I was hearing a radio station in my sleep, in my dream. I kind of became aware of the fact that I was actually asleep and it was actually a dream and it was actually a song I’d never heard before. I quickly shook the sleep out of my eyes and found a cassette player and sang all the different melodies and all the guitar riffs and even the title and the chorus and everything. I just had to complete the verse and it was all done. It was pretty much given to me as a gift. It’s been the song that’s clicked the most off the album so far. Other songs have gone pretty well but this one seems to be the one that has made a mark on people’s consciousness. So, whatever it was that caused that to happen, I’m really grateful. I actually have music percolate through my brain all the time. I listen to it all the time like background noise and I guess, even when I sleep there’s musical concepts being tossed around and I just happened to wake up during this one.”
Dave says that the other songs from the album came to him in a half netherworld state. “I might have a riff or something that I jot down or when I’m out shopping, I might just sing into my mobile phone which is what happened with one of the songs. They are just all scraps of ideas where I haven’t written a full version of the song and when it comes time to make the album, I just look back through these work tapes of this material and see what things strike me as interesting and that’s how I’ve always done it. It just happens pretty much like that. I’m not the sort of songwriter who, every day, makes myself sit down and write something. I think Neil Young used to do that. He’d write a song a day. I don’t do that. I just kind of collect things and if things pop into my head, I’ll jot it down if I can but otherwise, I’ll just ignore it. It’s only when I sit down to make a record that I do a concentrated burst of activity where I see what is going through my head and what else has been floating around in recent times and see what I’ve got.”
“I do apply myself in a very deliberate way but, as I say, I don’t do it every day. I think people can be a little non-plussed about how it works for song writers because we do rely a certain amount on inspiration but also, we rely a certain amount on applying ourselves to our craft and exploring our talent in a sense. It’s like someone making furniture I guess. You’ve got the wood there but you’ve still got to hone it and turn it into a piece of usable furniture and a lot of song writing is the actual cabinetry of that. We don’t always have to go out looking for nice bits of wood in the forest,” he laughs. “If I had to rely on sleeping with a song in my head, I’d have little to show for it, I’ll tell you.”
The Hoodoo Gurus do have plenty of old material to fall back on but it is good to see that they are producing new music and not just touring to rehash their great back catalogue. Dave is adamant that they continue to move forward and not simply rely on the success of their past hits. “When we broke up, we just didn’t want to repeat ourselves and the last album we did before the break up was called ‘Blue Cave’ and I love that record. I was very proud of it and I thought ‘I don’t want to make another record right now. I just don’t see that I can contribute anymore. I’ve been in the band for so long and I worked myself to a standstill really so I just wanted to make an album where I would be completely confident that I would be pleased with the result so I thought ‘We’ll just stop there and that will do’. Time went on and I was writing more songs that I didn’t know what to do with and obviously they were meant for the Hoodoo Gurus but it took me a while to get my head around it. Then about six years later, we made ‘Mac Schau’ and reformed and now, here’s the next album along from that. Really, for us, it’s all about making new music. As soon as the new music stops, so will we…”
by Sharyn Hamey
Last updated by Sharyn Hamey Aug 5, 2010.