Legendary Aussie rock band The Angels are gearing up for a tour guaranteed to smash the speakers and get venues rockin’. Announcing their 2017 4×4 Across Australia tour, the band will be digging through their back catalogue to pick some of their biggest hits for the special run of shows, which kick off in March. The 4×4 concept will see the band hand-picking four of their most iconic records, and playing, back-to-back, four hits from each record. Add to that an encore that will feature a swag of more classic tracks, and 4×4 will be a tour to go down in Aussie rock history. Original member and guitarist Rick Brewster talks to us about the tour and the longevity of The Angels and rock n roll.
Upon first connecting on the phone, Rick queries me on the little pen name I use “Schizodeluxe” which as I kind of explain to him is a reference to a favorite album of mine and is also used as an alter ego that people tend to use as an online gimmick. We have a good laugh about the idea after he comments that ‘It’s like wearing a mask isn’t it?’ before I ask him about the whole internet and social media side of things and whether he himself gets involved in it.
Rick: Indirectly I do. My wife shows me stuff and tells me stuff and maybe every month I’ll have a bit of a look myself but I do a lot of googling [laughs]. I’m not really social media, I don’t have the time for it. There’s always something I’d rather be doing. It’s like playing golf, you gotta put aside a whole day for that and people seem to put aside whole lives on social media. I don’t know how they do it.
Andrew: Yeah it’s definitely a time waster and so much time is invested in such a small part of your daily life I think.
Rick: Yeah and I think there are great things about it, I know people who lost their dog and the next day it’s found through Facebook. Stuff like that is great, hearing about traffic accidents and whatever, it’s a really useful thing. It makes for a lot of crap too, it gives the wrong people a voice.
Andrew: [laughs] It certaintly does! From a band perspective though it probably gives you a good chance to engage and connect with your audience and the fans.
Rick: Yeah it’s great but then I tend to do that indirectly as well. I get told to look at various posts and occasionally I’ll put something up but I don’t know, I’m a bit frightened of it I think [laughs].
Andrew: [laughs] Well obviously we are here to talk about the upcoming tour around Australia which has a very cool concept I believe where you are picking out some of the old classic songs and speaking of engaging with the fans, I think you are asking the fans to pick out some of the songs as well?
Rick: Well we haven’t really decided on the format exactly because we haven’t started the tour yet. The only thing we pretty much have decided on is we’re not going to restrict it to just 4 albums for the whole tour, we’ll pick a number of albums and from each of those have 4 songs ready to go and on the night we might do one batch of 4 albums and the next night do a different batch.
Andrew: So it’s going to be a different setlist every night then by the sounds of it.
Rick: Well it will probably settle in to a routine but yeah essentially it will change through the tour.
Andrew: OK cool. A lot of bands don’t really like to change setlists on a nightly basis. Is that something that you guys have done in the past or do you like to keep to a certain setlist?
Rick: Usually we change the setlist over the first couple of weeks and then settle into a groove and it pretty much stays like that for the rest of the tour. This one will be a bit different.
Andrew: Going back to your back catalogue and some of the early stuff which I guess you do anyway, play some of the classics and the fan favorites.
Rick: Yeah we always do and this tour will be no exception to that, we would be crucified if we didn’t do them.
Andrew: Is there any songs in your back catalogue that you’ve never played before?
Rick: Wow that’s a hard one to answer. We’ve probably played them all around the time of the album release but even some of the more obscure like “Dawn Is Breaking” and “No Exit”, we have actually played that on occasion and fairly recently too. We usually do pick out a couple of songs that we either haven’t played or haven’t played in a very long time or haven’t played with Dave Gleeson singing.
Andrew: That must be kind of a thrill for some of the hardcore fans who love to hear some of the more obscure songs. For you personally do you prefer to play some of the more rarer stuff?
Rick: I love it, yeah. Only on the last tour really we kind of rediscovered the “Skin & Bone” album and we were playing a couple of songs from that every night, it was fantastic! There’s a song that’s been requested a lot that we didn’t play until a couple of years ago and that’s become a real favorite with the band as well which was “Shoot It Up” from “Watch The Red” album.
Andrew: Do you have a particular favorite song to play or does that change all the time?
Rick: Yeah it does change, I can single out “Skid Row After Dark”, just something about that song. It’s the light and shade, it’s the one thing I really like in a song is dynamics and that’s got everything in a fairly concise song. “face The day” is another one I love playing.
Andrew: It’s been about 2 or 3 years since you did the last album “Talk The Talk” and I remember we reviewed it and loved it as it had that signature The Angels sound. Is there any talks maybe after the tour on working on new material?
Rick: We put down some tracks 3 months ago and their unfinished but it’s the basis for a new album and we’re about to go back in the studio in a couple of weeks and get a bit further down the track with those songs and probably put down another couple of new ones. So there will be one, I don’t know when.
Andrew: How is the process for making new songs? Has that changed over the years or has it pretty much remained the same?
Rick: Speaking for myself it’s pretty much remained the same. I tend to write most of my stuff on my own up until a certain point and then I usually take it to John (Brewster, guitars) for his input and from there, if we both have something that we like then we’ll take it to the band. Everyone writes differently, John does it differently and now we’ve got everyone in the band [who] contributes. Nick Norton (drums) writes great songs, Sam (Brewster, bass) writes great songs, Dave Gleeson (vocals) we’ve discovered writes great lyrics and melodies.
Andrew: Yeah he is a great vocalist, I remember him in The Screaming Jets all those years ago and when he joined your band it was such a great fit. How has he fitted with your band since he joined?
Rick: Oh really well! We’ve become great friends who is just a very likeable guy and a great singer and a great frontman. Totally different to Doc Neeson but very respectful of Doc, he was a major fan of Doc and the band when he grew up. He loves it and we love having him.
Andrew: Yeah great to see him in the band. The Angels have been around a long time, you had the 40th anniversary not long ago. What do you credit to the longevity of The Angels? What keeps you guys going?
Rick: It’s the songs. John and I came to that realization when Doc left the band, there were people who were saying to us, ‘Well that’s the end of the band’. And we said, ‘No it’s not, the songs are bigger than the band’. And I have to say we proved that point because from day one with Dave Gleeson singing we had great crowds, great reactions and it’s been the same ever since. It’s not the band, it’s the songs. The songs have fortunately stood the test of time, they’re still relevant today even to the young people. We get heaps of young people coming to the shows.
Andrew: That is a testament to classic rock I guess, I mean it’s something that people always go back to no matter what generation you grow up in. I think classic rock is always going to be around and something that never fades away.
Rick: That’s exactly right! There’s so many songs that have been written that are relevant only to a very short period of time and they disappear, never hear them again and very often never hear from that band again.
Andrew: How did you get into music in the first place? What inspired you?
Rick: My answer to that question has sometimes been Beethoven [laughs] and that’s because he was my favorite composer when I was learning classical piano when I was still at school. I played a lot of Beethoven, I loved it. But really it was probably my Grandmother who inspired me to get into music because she was a great musician too, so was her husband and her Grandfather. We never met him as he passed away before I was born but he was a great classical musician / composer / conductor – the whole thing. So it was in our family, John and I both grew up around music, albeit classical until John discovered Bob Dylan and I was still playing classical piano at the time but it just went from there and somehow or another we morphed into a rock band
Andrew: Was there any particular musician that helped to shape your style and sound?
Rick: Early on when I couldn’t really play, because I put my hand up to be lead guitarist without knowing how to play lead guitar, I listened to a bit of Chuck Berry, I listened to a bit of Angus Young and from there started listening to some other great blues players. Eric Clapton, a bit of Hendrix, a bit of Stevie Ray vaughn So a whole lot is the answer. A whole lot of guitarists that have influenced me over the years.
Andrew: Yeah it’s interesting to hear the influences and where people came from. We try to ask people a couple of questions in relation to that kind of stuff and the editor is screamng at me to ask you this question because he couldn’t talk to you today but if there was any particular classic album in history that you could be the witness to the recording of, what would it be?
Rick: Well I would say..what’s the classic Queen album, the one with that epic song?
Andrew: Oh Bohemian Rhapsody?
Rick: Yeah “Bohemian Rhapsody” [editors note: A Night At he Opera], whatever album that was on, I think that would be amazing to be there. I say that because I’ve worked with an engineer who [worked] on that album and he said by the end of recording “Bohemian Rhapsody”, he had gone through the tape heads that many times you could hold it up and it was like netting, you could see straight through the two inch master tape. And that little story always amazed me and I still think about it, it sounds so good and the tape was that thin so much of the oxide had worn off it! Imagine what it would of sounded like if it had just been one or two passes when it was recorded, just thinking about what must have gone through those musicians heads and the producer and engineer working on that album to achieve that. But that’s only one, I mean god, what would it have been like to be there when the Beatles recorded the White album or Sgt. Pepper or any of them.
Andrew: Yeah I can only imagine, especialy the White album for me as it’s interesting how that one came together and how strange it was at the same time. One more question for you personally, what is the meaning of life?
Rick: [laughs] Noone has ever asked me that.
Andrew: [laughs] It’s why we ask it!
Rick: Yeah! Well number one is to enjoy life I think. Whatever it presents, makes the most of it because you’ve only got one and it’s not that long.
Andrew: That’s very sound advice! We are looking forward to seeing you guys on this tour in March and April, I think it’s going to be a hit with the fans. So thanks for your time today, really appreciate it and have fun on the tour man. Should be a blast!
Rick: Yeah pleasure, thanks! Good talking to you.