INTERVIEW: Angry Anderson on Rose Tattoo

Ahead of his appearance at Newcastle’s Cambridge Hotel on April 28th, Rose Tattoo frontman Angry Anderson talks about the future of the Tats and the secret to remaining rock and roll into his seventies.

The rock n’ roll outlaws announced the Blood Brothers tour late last year, with appearances at Swedenrock, Rockavaria and Hellfest European Summer Festivals along with their own sideshows.

The line-up will see legendary music icons share the stage, including bass player extraordinaire, Mark Evans of AC/DC fame, iconic guitarist Bob Spencer – The Angels & Skyhooks, the keeper of time, John ‘Watto’ Watson, Australian Crawl, Pete Well’s endorsed Dai Pritchard on slide and the quintessential front-man, the indomitable Angry Anderson.

So by looks of things, you have a big year ahead of you.

“It’s certainly shaping up that way, and the exciting thing about it is that it is glowing from week to week”.

It’s an interesting thing, because of all the people I have had the honour of talking to, you have had one of the most interesting careers. It’s a hard question to throw you under the bus with, but when it comes to career defining moments, what puts it all into perspective for you?

“I think one of the greatest moments we had musically was when we walked off the stage at Reading in 1981. We were put on an earlier slot at the beginning of the day, which is always difficult for a band to do. There was a strong reception from the front of the crowd since there were a lot of Aussies there, but by the time we walked out, there was a massive roar from the crowd. That was the moment that we knew we were going to cross over, going from an Aussie pub band to a global level.

Another big thing was when Ray Martin returned to Midday, because the band had folded at that time and I was wondering what I was going to do with myself. I needed to give up the lifestyle for my daughter who had just been born. I couldn’t keep living that lifestyle and be a responsible father at the same time. I was asked to do a feature about street kids, and the reception that segment received from the public meant I had somewhere to go. It started a year before when I was visiting a bloke in jail, who told me he was going to start a halfway house for young male offenders, trying to help them turn their life around. He asked me to come down and hang out with the guys because we had a similar story to tell. It was because of the songs we wrote, they identified with the lyrics”.

I’m assuming that’s when the charity work began to kick in?

“Absolutely. I think it began more as a curio; I wanted to know what was going on. Once Ray Martin gave me the opportunity, people saw that it was serious and because of that, it gave people who don’t necessarily have a voice, to channel their ideas on television. It only took a month or two until I had a lot of requests from charities, whether large organisations or a small country town trying to raise money for a school. I found myself living on planes more than when I was in a band”.

Those years of your music career took you to some wild places. What made you go back to Rose Tattoo? Considering it’s the first major tour in 8 years.

“The last tour was in 2008. That was before the death of Mick Cocks in 2009 and at the time our drummer had become very much non functional. With the passing of Mick, the last of the originals, and the downward spiral of DeMarco meant that it was just becoming too much to try and keep things going with the band. Our band was always reeling from one drama to another, it was part of the reason people were attracted to us. It was the intensity of the vibe.

In recent days we have been getting a lot of offers to play overseas. I have made mates with some of the greatest rock and roll players in the world, and four of them are now in a band with me playing as Rose Tattoo”.

In the time from that last tour until now, what has changed?

“Mainly the people. In choosing people to play in the band, it’s a fairly easy for me to do. I remember reading a bio for Rose Tattoo a while back written by a journalist who had done their basic research, which said that the band has had twenty-something members during their run. Sure we have had people play in the band, but very few of them I can classify as members. In a sense, it can’t just be anyone that plays in the band, you either got what it takes or you don’t. Rose Tattoo is not about the people; it’s about the music”.

Returning overseas to do the European run of things, do you have any bucket list items?

“Not particularly, I think the main one would be for nostalgic reasons only, touring with ZZ Top. We toured with them through Europe in 1980 for their comeback tour. The story goes that the record company gave them a bunch of photos and records to listen to and then told them to pick a support act. They told us that when they looked at the photos they thought we were just a bunch of bikies, but then they listened to the music and realised the whole basis of our sound is blues music.

It’s funny, someone asked us if we were planning new product, but in a real sense we have never planned new product it’s just happened. Over the years we haven’t been as prolific with our releases as other bands, but that is ok”.

What can we expect with Blood Brothers?

“One thing that is really exciting is the quantity of work we are contemplating on doing. The thing about it is that we are going to play a different set every time we are on stage. Our management suggested that we choose an iconic pub and play a residency there once a weekend over a period of a month. So there will be something different every time we play. Though we don’t have ten albums to choose from, we have a wealth of songs to choose from. The Blood Brothers tour we are running under now was an album we recorded in 2007; an album I knew was our last with the original members. The album never really got a run when it was released, because no major label wanted to touch it. They thought we were too old and the material was too dated. But then Golden Robot, a record company here in Sydney, took a punt at the album and has been very supportive, and now listening to it and playing it, the material sounds pretty fresh as apposed to sounding dated. We have had feedback from stations overseas, ones that play more obscure stuff that mainstream don’t touch, it doesn’t play Nickelback or Foo Fighters. I wouldn’t cross the road to talk to Nickleback. And overall the reception has been quite rewarding”.

On a final note, you turned 70 last years and aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. What is the ultimate secret to remaining rock n roll?

“Insanity. I remember when we were touring a while back and I saw this great bumper sticker that said ‘insanity is hereditary, you get it from your kids’. A couple years ago I had a flirt with politics, I had my mind made up about retiring. But life has a wonderful way of getting you to where you need to be, not necessarily of where you want to be. Life basically told me that I wasn’t done yet”.

Rose Tattoo has etched their name into the music industry, becoming one of the biggest names in Australian rock. Anderson’s career has taken him to great extremes, becoming an icon spanning multiple mediums and a true Australian icon.

Rose Tattoo is set to hit Newcastle’s Cambridge Hotel on Saturday April 28th.

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