DRIVEN TO KEEP ROCKING
Newcastle hard-rock band Screaming Jets head back on the road for a national tour to celebrate 25 years of performing live shows
Whether hearing 1991 hit Better on the radio or playing in chock-a-block pubs around the nation, the Screaming Jets singer Dave Gleeson feels lucky that the Newcastle band have rocked for 25 years.
“There’s a lot of bands who have had greater success than us but have never and will never reach a milestone like that,” Gleeson says from Adelaide, where he has lived for the past 10 years with his wife and two children.
Luck and “blindly rocking on, especially for the first 10 years of the band” are two reasons why the Screaming Jets are on tour celebrating their quarter century.
Gleeson formed the bluecollar hard-rock group with his high school mates, guitarist Grant Walmsley and bassist Paul Woosen.
They cut their teeth playing pubs around the Hunter Valley and working as roadies on nights off. Gleeson recalls the band getting $60 for loading up Leo Sayer’s gear at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre.
After trying on several names, including Sudden Impact, Aspect and the Love Bomb, they settled on the Screaming Jets and won Triple J’s inaugural National Band Competition in November 1989.
Early the following year, the lads relocated to Sydney, soon landing regular gigs at notorious Kings Cross nightspot Springfields.
“(Newcastle) was our apprenticeship and Sydney was our traineeship,” Gleeson says. “We learnt within about two weeks of living in Kings Cross that you take your sunglasses to Springfields because you’re leaving in the morning.”
The Kings Cross venue hosted all the big bands of the era – Gleeson recalls seeing Angus and Malcolm Young jam with Darwin-spawned contemporaries the Poor.
“It was really just a huge eye-opener for us young blokes but we took it all in our stride,” he chuckles. “We were ambassadors for Newcastle.”
The Screaming Jets are arguably the second-mostfamous band, after Silverchair, to come out of Newcastle but more than any other act epitomise a sound forged in the pubs and clubs of the coalexporting city.
“The bands that were always loved and adored in Newcastle were Chisel, the Angels, AC/DC and Rose Tattoo,” Gleeson says. “That working-class music always appealed to Novocastrians.”
The Screaming Jets became standard-bearers of a new wave of no-nonsense Oz rock. They toured with the Angels and signed to independent label rooArt, standing out among more arty types such as Ratcat and the Hummingbirds.
“We signed to rooArt records for a seven-album deal,” Gleeson explains. “The seventh album was going to get a $1 million advance or 75 per cent of previous album sales, whichever was greater.”
The Jets released four albums with rooArt and six in total. The first album after leaving the label is called Scam.
Gleeson and Woosen are the only founding members still touring and he rarely speaks to Walmsley. “We had some negotiations … but were just going in different directions and that’s that,” he says.
The Screaming Jets plough on, recording new four-track EP Razor in guitarist Scott Kingmans “brilliant” studio on Victorias Mornington Peninsula.
Gleeson has also been fronting one of his favourite Oz rock bands for the past three and a half years. “I've been off having an affair with the Angels,” he jokes.
When asked about his highlights of the past 25 years, Gleeson says singing with INXS in front of 60,000 people at German festival Rock am Ring in 1992. Michael Hutchence introduced him as “Dave Gleeson from the Screaming Jets – Australias greatest rock band”.
“Musically speaking, I’d have to say putting out multiple albums, getting gold and platinum records,” Gleeson says. “But I guess the best achievement or highlight of the whole thing is that we can still go around 25 years later and draw crowds. We’re all fired up again.”
The Screaming Jets hit Twin Towns as part of the band’s 25th anniversary national tour.