Fast Forward cassette magazine #2 - December 1980

mp3 (Audio) Birthday Party - 1980 - Fast Forward 2 Interview.rar

Geoff King: So what's the state of play now with the name now, then? I mean, it's The Birthday Party you've been establishing overseas, but it's still The Boys Next Door sort of in subtitles here. Is that something you're going to keep, or...

Rowland S. Howard: Well, personally I would have liked to have omitted the subtitles. I don't think it's really necessary for a start, and it's just confusing and prolongs the sort of confusion.

GK: One of the things, I suppose, I'd be interested in talking about is what's been released over in England. There's the single, the three track single which came out here on 4AD. Has that been released over there?

RSH: Yeah.

Nick Cave: Yeah, it's out... well, that was our second London single, the first one was Mr. Clarinet.

RSH: Which we put out ourselves...

NC: The way we did it was to go over there unknown, release a single entirely by ourselves and hopefully it would incite a bit of interest, which it did. And we did a one-off record deal with 4AD... to our terms.. and that's our second one. And now we're back here to record an album. And 4AD, the same company, are very interested in it and they seemed to do a good job with the last one. So they'll probably release it next summer.

GK: What was the sort of interest in the single?

RSH: The Friend Catcher single came in at number three in the NME alternative charts which surprised me no end. But, then again in the Sounds charts it came in at about number thirty-one which seems to be a little confusing.

NC: But.. the men from 4AD were very suprised at the amount it sold. All the success we had there was generally due to our records as opposed to the live thing.

GK: The success of The Friend Catcher single I'd imagine was largely based on John Peel playing it continuously almost to the point of people criticizing him that...

NC: The Peel shows, I'm not sure. They have a massive sort of.. listening crowd to them, so they are a real lot of help and anyone... I think anyone who generally listens to sort of new music generally listens to John Peel. I'm not sure, but ah..

GK: Yeah, that seems to be the case. I mean, I noticed that when Small Wonder sort of decided to pretty much go out of business as a record label, I said that well one of the reasons is if.. it's this unfortunate situation if Peel doesn't play your record it's not going to sell. Because no one's going to hear it.

NC: Yeah.

RSH: Yeah, exactly.

GK: And it's rather a difficult position for him to be in, but when he picks someone up and sort of champions them, well it really does help..

RSH and NC: Yeah.

GK: ...and it seems to have helped in you guys' case..

RSH: Yes, yes, very kind.

NC: I don't know whether he tends to kind of deliberately help the underdog or whether.. He played other Australian stuff, too I hear.

GK: Let's talk about England - obviously the impetus for going over there was that you felt that your music would be y'know, quite acceptable to what's going on there.. and so I just wonder, when you got there, how you felt about that, how you saw yourselves fitting in.

NC: It took about three months or so to, um... We went through a bit of a shock when we got there and it took us about three months or so maybe four to get any confidence back. Our initial performances were fairly sort of... entirely unsatisfactory. But by the end of it they'd improved a lot and we'd gotten back into the run of things. And then we came back home, unfortunately.

RSH: Well, generally I found the groups over there live very disappointing and their performance and attitude towards playing live were very unexciting as a whole. There was a very small few that were good.

GK: Well, it strikes me one of the things about England is that their bands don't get to play a real lot. Y'know there's..

RSH: Well the thing is -

NC: Many of them don't want to.

RSH: Yes, they just don't want to. I mean, the English are such a lazy nation that they choose to play once every month or once every two months and we were used to playing three times a week or at least twice a week and... like I really felt like I just wasn't in the group at all most of the time because we played about ten times the whole time we were there and.. nothing.

NC: But at the same time it is very difficult to get gigs there, particularly when you are.. Initially, we had to go around to the different places and just to the venues and say we'd like to play there and... First of all they'd never heard us and secondly, we were Australian and both of those things really worked against us. The Rock Gardens helped us quite a bit and we played there and after that got around, then we got a lot more gigs after that.

GK: So was that basically your mode of operation, you just had to go along in front of them and say 'Look, this is our record' and stuff..

NC: Yeah.

RSH: That's what everyone does. You just have to send them a tape or a record and if they like it, they'll put you on.

NC: Yes, except we had no one behind us. I mean, most groups who go to London from Australia have a record company behind them and they stay in hotels and they wait for the people who are working for them to do all that sort of thing.

GK: Or they have a tour lined up before they go.. whereas..

NC: We just had to go around with a tape or a record in our hand and sort of do it in that fashion. I think the thing that helped us the most perhaps, I'm not sure, was that the groups themselves heard us and all heard singles or heard Peel play us and so forth and helped us a lot in that respect.

RSH: It was a matter of gaining respect from papers and so forth first, and then getting to play as opposed to doing big gigs which didn't really happen.

GK: How did you go about organizing things like y'know, sound and crew and stuff like that?

NC: We didn't. We did it ourselves.

RSH: We had a group called The Fridges who kindly lent us their amplifiers and put them onstage for us.. all that sort of.. Which was very nice of them.

NC: The problem with our live performances was that there was such a long gap in between each performance that we couldn't kind of keep the thing rolling...

RSH: It was kind of mental more, actually..

NC: And so we kind of had nerves all over again, type of thing. If we had been playing twice a week after about two weeks we would have felt fine about it.

GK: Yeah, did you have any conception of that when you went over there or before you went over there, that that's what it was going to be like, or...

NC: I had no conception of anything in London before I went there. I just didn't know what to expect.

GK: Have you written much stuff over the last.. since you've been away?

NC: Well, yes and no... I personally haven't had anything to write and I write all my songs on the piano. Live stuff, we've written y'know, enough and I have written some other stuff for the record, but... that would be played live. But it's interesting.. since I've gotten.. It's probably not so interesting at all, actually... (laughter) but since I've gotten back here with my old piano I've been able to write a lot better and alot quicker.

GK: And what about the provinces, I mean, did you try sort of, any of the other major centers to see how strong it would be?

RSH: No..

NC: No not really.. Things were difficult enough, we weren't really out to make money in London, it was just to kind of make ourselves known enough so that when we came back up with an album things would be a lot easier, which I'm sure they will. I mean, we'll only be in London for about three months, we're leaving in ten weeks. We'll be in London for about three months hopefully, then we're touring Europe and America. And the guy from 4AD is already.. He said he'll have all that underway... which... so things I hope will be alot easier this time around.

GK: When do you start recording on the album?

NC: Christmas, or.. we're not really sure yet. We're doing this tour, then we're going to record the album.

GK: Do you know, sort of, where you're going to record it, and all that sort of stuff?

NC: We have tossing it up at the moment, but hopefully it's done..

RSH: We have some time around spring but we'll have to use another studio as well..

GK: What about the production stuff, who's going to handle that? Are you going to do it yourself?

RSH and NC: We will.

NC: Had enough of producers in Australia...

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