The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world




Australia Rock music has had plenty of stars that burned bright briefly, but Ross Wilson is a little different - an artist that achieved it all not once, or twice but three times - as leader of both Daddy Cool and Mondo Rock and as a solo artist. His story is interwoven through the fabric of Australian music history of the Seventies and Eighties. In January he returns to Wetsern Australia to play Busselton's 'Oz Rock' Festival alongside Icehouse and others...

Mark: It’s great to be able to catch up with one of Australian Rock’s most memorable voices in Ross Wilson who will be over in the West as part of the Oz Rock Busselton festival on Saturday 24 January. With other Aussie Rock stars like yourself, Icehouse, Diesel, James Reyne and Wendy Matthews all over it’s a great line up?


Ross: Yes, we can’t wait to get over.


Mark: And you play with your touring band The Peaceniks’ tell us a little about those guys and the sort of set you’ll be putting on in Busselton


Ross: They’re all great players from all over Australia, my drummer is from Perth and when he’s not with me he plays with all kinds of other bands, Eric on lead guitar of course is from Mondo Rock and we’ll play some of the songs that he wrote that I sing and some of my songs to. But the band are all really good guys, great musicians and we’ll play a whole heap of stuff from Daddy Cool to Mondo Rock to my more recent stuff as well.  


Mark: Sounds like a pretty amazing day, and you’ve had a pretty amazing career too over the years.


Ross: Well I just thank my lucky stars every day that I’m still around! (laughs) I’ve been doing it without a break since just before Daddy Cool, I quit the job I was in, became pro and went travelling, then it all came together with Daddy Cool and ever since then I’ve either been performing, writing or producing; though mainly these days performing. I do it all of the time mainly over Australia but sometimes elsewhere and I really enjoy it, it’s a good life.


Mark: Did you imagine in those early days that you’d still not only be playing but still this busy?


Ross: (laughs) Well I sort of hoped it would last a while! I started my first band at school but when I left school I went into the public service, got a job with the Government but I was still playing with bands, learning stuff and writing songs, and I started to get better and better at that so about two and a half years after that I jumped of the edge… and you have to be prepared to do that, you can’t do it part time I don’t reckon and do it well.  


Mark: And you went to the UK when you were quite young at a very interesting time for music, what sort of influence did that have on you?


Ross: Well I had an invitation to go there from a band that I knew that had gone across there and they decided they would like me to sing with them, so that’s how I ended up in the UK. I was there in the Northern Summer of ’69 and we played some great shows at the Marquee Club and a few others, but it all fell apart. I stayed there for a while and then came back after aa trek through Europe and Asia and India, a lot of places and some that are now in disarray – we went through Syria, Iraq, Iran, all those places you read about all the time at the moment. And when I got back I kind of had an idea of what I wanted to do – one was a ‘Daddy Cool’ kind of thing and one was more ‘out there’! We started playing with friends, underground, I knew and it all caught on and then it all went overground.

Mark: You’ve had a great career and not just defined by one band, you’ve had success with Daddy Cool, Mondo Rock and also solo, but there has also been so much else along the way. One thing I didn’t realise was that you scored the music to the ‘Oz’ film.  


Ross: The Director was a friend and he actually filmed the clip to Daddy Cool’s ‘Eagle Rock’ but he’d also been making movies and he had this idea for the ‘Oz’ film and I already had the song ‘Living in the Land of Oz’ so when he came to me I said “you’ve come to the right place because I’ve already got the main song”! That was a great experience but still the only feature film I’ve done the whole score for. But a lot of my songs have been used in other films.


Mark: I think the first time I ever heard one of your songs was when I heard Rick Springfield covered ‘State of the Heart’, which for any years I didn’t realise was written by you. Also over the last few months reading a lot of books about the Australian music scene you’ve been written about quite a bit, you’re woven through the history of Australian Rock! Is there a book in there one day do you think?  


Ross: Well there is but I think as I still have teenage kids I don’t want to freak the out too soon! (laughing)…


Mark: Maybe a TV drama then? (laughing)


Ross: You never know! Of course there are people knocking on the all the time saying “when are we going to do this book” (laughing) and I just don’t know if I want to divulge anything just yet!


Mark: Like all the best stories you have to wait for it! I guess the big first step was ‘Daddy Who?’ that first album that I think is a youthful 43 years old this year!


Ross: That’s right and that was where the basis of my profession really came together, and even though I’d been playing in bands since I was sixteen, I had six or seven years of playing up my sleeve, and by then I was 23 and still had lots of youthful energy and I had a pretty productive 20 years after that, I produced Skyhooks, formed a Publishing Company with Glen Wheatley, got sick of that any then formed Mondo Rock had some great years, but I’ve been really lucky, though there was a lot of hard work involved in all of that, and you have to keep pushing forward. Keep getting back out there on stage.  


Mark: Taking it all the way right back to the start then what was it that really started it all for you? What made you know that music was going to be your life?


Ross: I was just like any other kid mucking around, I mean I had a musical ear and the house I grew up in – my Dad had a lot of old jazz records, and I used to pull out the old ‘78’s, early boogie-woogie and say wow that’s just like Jerry Lee Lewis, so I managed to join the dots between Blues and Jazz and see where it all came from, and I got interested in Blues. But as well as that a lot of pop records like The Beatles had harmonica on them, so I got a harmonica and picked it up really quickly and then next thing a guy saw me jamming and asked if I wanted to join a band – it was a real garage thing, but we cut a single, and it got in the charts and that was how it all started for me. All while I was still at school.   


Mark: Was there one artist that you recall from back in those early days that you still can’t go past – someone who perhaps inspired you more than most?


Ross: Well unlike a lot of people my age I still get excited by new music. I mean there are still some artists I keep going back to – I love the Blues guys – John Lee Hooker and Howling Wolf, Howling Wolf is phenomenal. A lot of stuff on the Excello label*, the world of funk, there’s a lot of great rap stuff around, how it’s all evolved is still interesting to me. Just the other week I went to see The Preatures - last Saturday night I had a night off and went to the Forum and they were great, they looked ready and were playing a nice big stage. So I still like to hear and get out and see new stuff. Last September I was over in Europe and I took a detour to Croatia to see a Bass Festival, I like all kinds of stuff still, anything exciting.

Mark: Do you think, looking at new bands like that. Especially Australia bands it’s still as hard out there to get noticed?


Ross: I think it is It, I mean I’m glad that I started out in the period I did, because every neighbourhood in those days made their own music, had their local dances and made their own fun. I’m not sure there is anything like that these days. I mean these places were unlicensed, there was no grog involved and we all learned how it was done. These days you have to deal with different things – with the internet and new ways of publicising your music. The biggest problem for guys of my age is that people just want to talk about your old stuff! They don’t give your new stuff the time of day even if it is pretty good, and you don’t get any airplay unless it is on a Community Station. So that’s the biggest hurdle, but then you do get breaks – the title track of my last album ‘I Come in Peace’ Joe Cocker ended up covering it on his album that went platinum in places like Germany, and that’s when you feel it was all worth it!   


Mark: And you have some new Mondo Rock remixes out on your website I noticed?


Ross: The remix of ‘Come said the Boy’ that a guy in England did for us is pretty good I reckon!


Mark: It sounds great. For someone which such a long and successful career so far, do you still have any unfulfilled musical ambitions?


Ross: I have a whole bunch of songs that are nagging me to do something with them. There are a few that I’ve rediscovered that I’ve polished and am working on them. Aside from that I think I’d like to do something a little more modern than the last album I did, push it forward again. And I’ll look for some producers to help me put that together.  


Mark: I think it’s great that you haven’t lost that desire that you still want to be out there creating?


Ross: Well I think it’s Australia! If I was the same guy living in America I’d probably be a lot richer!


Mark: If you could have been a ‘Fly on the wall’ for the creation of any great album from any period, just to see how the magic happened and it all came together, what would it have been for you any why?

Ross: Probably ‘Freak Out’ by the Mothers of Invention and Miles Davis ‘Kind of Blue’ I wouldn’t have minded being around when they were doing that. An incredible album. And the Mother’s album was a kind of critical album for me as it showed me that you could take chances rather than just be like everyone else. When I first heard it I remember thinking “What is that?” but once I got over that I realised that the music on it was amazing. Zappa was using the band but also session musicians and orchestrating the wold thing, and I guess later when I was producing Skyhooks it made me say ‘let’s take chances’, ‘let’s push it a bit’…   


Mark: What is the meaning of life?


Ross: (long pause, then laughing) Why are you asking me! No one else can answer that so I don’t know how you expect me to! I guess it’s a bit of a puzzle the whole thing – why we are all here, just specs on the surface of the earth. When you get up in the air and see the vastness of it you realise we are just microbes smeared across the surface of the earth and we’re really not that important. So I guess learning that we are not really that important and that that we all have to live and work together and cooperate to survive is part of the answer.  


Mark: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, we’ll see you in the New Year down at Oz Rock in Busselton!


Ross: See you there, Thanks. Cool!



* Excello Records was  a Blues Label that recorded artists such as Lonnie Brooks, Lightnin' Slim, Charles Sheffield, Lazy Lester, the Kelly Brothers, Lonesome Sundown, Silas Hogan, Arthur Gunter and Carol Fran.


Ross spoke to Mark Diggins in December 2014


For More information about OZ ROCK see below






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