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

Shane Rockpit rocks out with EMERALD CITY

 

Little did I know, when I sat down with Sal Abate and Simon Hallet on a cold and windy night at the Morley Alehouse to find out what’s happening in the world of Emerald City, that the band were on the verge of a rebirth.

 

EMERALD CITY launched in early 2007 – a time when Perth was synonymous with Indie bands. The first of the New Wave of Perth Rock bands, they released their debut EP in 2008, supported the likes of Paul Stanley, and quickly gathered a strong following – but line-up hassles and a lack of industry support saw things go quiet for a while on the E.C. front.

 

In late 2009 the band bounced back into action, playing a succession of big gigs with their new drummer Frank LiCastro – but still facing the same industry apathy. Fast forward to late 2010 and they’re holed up in the studio, once again with ex-Baby Animals dude Eddie Parise, recording a new song – ‘Show & Tell’.

 

Sal takes up the story: We’re recording it for a promo pack to hit industry pretty hard. We’re going to include a film clip of live highlights, and a full bio and all that. We’ll probably release it as a single, maybe with a couple of live tracks to remind everyone we’re here and take things up a notch. We still get 500 people to each gig, but get no industry support at all, so we’re hoping to change that!

 

Let’s go back to the start – what’s the quick version of the Emerald City story?

 

Sal: Nick [Rosetti – guitar] & Joe [Saba – guitar] started the band, they were just two guitarists and pretty much went out and found me singing at The Lookout one night. Nick approached me, said they wanted me to sing, so after a while [I joined] ‘cos I saw the potential. Then Simon did the same thing, joined after a while – yeah around 2005, 2006 – then the band launch was March 17th 2007 at the Amplifier Bar, and we’d already lined up the Paul Stanley support slot for about a month after that.

 

 

One thing a lot of people have wondered is - what’s the story behind your name?

 

Sal: Well Nick is a big KISS fan – as we all are – and in a book by Gene Simmons, he said Casablanca was originally called Emerald City but he didn’t like that – so we took it! No “Wizard Of Oz” connection in there, though “walking through a field of poppies to find the Emerald City” is an interesting reference…

 

Simon: I didn’t even realise the connection ‘til after we’d been gigging and people were asking me…

 

The “Unleashed” EP came out in 2008 – what was the general response to that?

 

Sal: Yeah we still have people interested in it and we still sell a few every gig. The first night we launched it we sold about 600 copies… enough to recoup a LITTLE bit of the cost of the thing… and the launch show was a big one – it always puts you a little behind when you do those sort of things…

 

Sal continues: We got one review from Portugal which was ten out of ten – higher rated than [at that time current releases from] Europe, Journey and some other big names… and it makes you wonder, why can’t Perth realise what they’ve got if the rest of the world loves it, you know?

 

This is a great point and one of the things I wanted to ask the boys – does the lack of media recognition they get piss them off? I mean in 2006/2007 were the only local band playing 80’s flavoured rock and metal.

 

Simon: Nah it doesn’t piss us off, we kinda like it… I think what we hate the most is that a lot of posers sort came out of it – we love the bands we play with and the rock they play, there’s just some posers spawned from this scene…

 

 

Sal: What does annoy me is what we’re supposed to call our local “backing” - the media like the Xpress mag, the Wire magazine – we get fuck all support man, nothing. Xpress backed us a little bit when we first came out and then – well I dunno if it was getting torn apart or graced, but their review when we brought out the EP was about how eighties we were, and were we taking the piss!! No, we’re not taking the piss, we’re just trying to show you what music is about - the music we love. We’re not trying to repeat that music, we’re trying to make our own music in the style we love, and it’s not like we’re taking the piss man, we’re just trying to be ourselves, not Iron Maiden or anything. These boys have a big jazz influence, a big funk influence – Joe & Simon – Frank can play everything man…

 

Sal is justifiably frustrated – after all, what’s the point of street press if they don’t support the bands playing at street level? Perth is famous for a lot of indie bands, and notorious for its media supporting whatever they deem as trendy and cool – or, even worse, only supporting their mates.

 

I change the subject and ask what is the dynamic in the band for songwriting?

 

Sal: A lot of the time Nick or Joe will come in with a guitar part, a few of the newer songs Joe’s come in with a guitar part and handed it to us, then Simon’s added a whole heap of fill-in riffs and done extra stuff, and we all sit there and write melodies, it’s pretty much…

 

Simon: … a group effort, yeah

 

Sal: Our newest song [the aforementioned ‘Show and Tell’] was written, literally, by the whole band – Joe came in with the riff, Nick pulled it apart and put it back together, I came up with the words and melody, Simon kinda produced it and it worked really well – and Frank named the song, you know. We do have enough [songs] for an album… yeah we just don’t have the money for an album!

 

Simon: Last time we spent a LOT on the EP, but it needed to sound really good – we weren’t gonna release it unless we really liked it, and Eddie did a great job producing it…

 

Sal: Eddie really knew where we were coming from, from harmonies to songs, and I just about lived there for the whole time

 

 

Emerald City’s major inspirations are mostly American – what about a US tour?

 

Sal: Yeah we have contacts in L.A. now man, we did the George Lynch and Faster Pussycat support, and we blew ‘em away. The promoter from that show said ‘come over’, Craig Goldy said ‘come over’… we’re focussing on next year. Joe’s been in touch with Craig Goldy about the Destiny’s Bridge thing [Emerald City won the Perth leg on the Destiny’s Bridge band competition], and he thinks that might happen later this year, but it’s already been a year so who knows… We’re looking at doing a live album…

 

Talk goes to one of the band’s early shows at Black Bettys

 

Sal: The roof caught fire, man!

 

Simon: Oh it was close, man – if you watch the footage you can see the flames go up to the soundproofing stuff at the top of the stage and catch…

 

Sal: You can hear it in the crowd, I didn’t even notice the roof was on fire man, Joe & Cam noticed first ‘cos literally the roof was melting onto his kit! We were apparantly the first Perth band to do it in years – we made every paper [laughs]! We had 600 or so there, they just kept cramming them in the door, we’re not allowed to use pyro there any more after that! And then we got so much word of mouth from that show we had 700 or so at our next show - and they still wont let us play back there!

 

We have a laugh about Nikki Sixx putting gel on his legs and burning it onstage, and how the laws in the 80s were so much looser, then Sal reveals his pet project…

 

Sal: Oh I was trying to talk the boys into letting me rig up a flying fox from the back of the venue and fly down to the stage over everyone’s heads, but there was no way we could make it cost effective [and comply with all the regulations]!!!

 

Is it possible to be a full time original musician in Perth? I remember a time when some bands have 3 residencies a week for a few years – though, to be fair, they played covers and slotted in originals where they could after they built up a following.

 

Simon: You’d like to live completely off rock music but you just can’t

 

Sal: I would love to live off my music – I would gig every day if I could! But there’s no call for it, we did a gig once a week for a while and [crowds thinned out]. It’s just not wanted for original bands, [only if you play] covers as well as originals.

 

 

I wonder out loud – if it’s like 1987 again and one of the big record companies said we want you to get on a plane and tour for 2 years, leave your lives behind. Would you do it?

 

[With absolutely no hesitation]

 

Sal & Simon together: Yes!!!

 

Come on, I joke, stop sitting on the fence – yes or no??

 

[laughter]

 

Sal: Without a doubt in my mind, man, if someone handed me a cheque I would be there tomorrow at the airport – I’d be there waiting at 12:01! That’s the dream, that’s what I want. I just want to be able to play our music to the world, man, play in front of people who enjoy it. Simon & Frank practise hours a day on their instruments, Joe & Nick are always doing more recording and writing, we’re always helping with the writing process…

 

Before we finish, I want to know what is the guy’s most embarrassing moment?

 

Simon: We did a gig at The Civic, had a really good crowd, it went really well, and we came off the stage and were gonna do an encore n’ everything. Then we walked out the [stage] doors, and they shut behind us – so we basically walked out and locked ourselves out of our own gig! We were just standing there thinking “This is SO funny – and SO Spinal Tap!”

 

Where can fans find out the latest Emerald City news?

 

Sal: Check our Myspace and Facebook pages

 

Simon: We’re out most weekends in Northbridge so they can come n’ talk to us if they want!

 

And of course, the last question we ask everyone is… What is the meaning of life?

 

Simon: [slowly] The meaning of life… hmmmmmm…

 

Sal: One meaning of life is to find a partner, bring up kids in this society which has gotten so fucked up... but to others – live the dream! Live the dream by using your talent – just do it, no regrets… I think God gives everyone something – a talent, be it singing or bobsledding or whatever, man – just find that and use it!

 

Simon: Be happy and have a bloody good time!!

 

[Everyone laughs]

 

Sal: Yeah - that too! As long as you’re doing what you wanna do, you’re gonna be happy!

 

And with that we say farewell to Simon & Sal and eagerly await the ‘Show & Tell’ single release party!

 

Shane Rockpit
October 2010