An­gry An­der­son

A small man with a big voice, An­gry An­der­son is the last man stand­ing from the orig­i­nal Rose Tat­too. Now the lat­ter-day politi­cian is fronting a re­boot of the Oz rock­ers. And yes, he’s still an­gry.

Classic Rock - - Contents - Words: Dave Ling

A small man with a big voice, the lat­ter-day politi­cian is fronting a re­boot of Rose Tat­too. And yes, he’s still an­gry.

An hour and a half in the com­pany of Gary An­der­son – you will know him bet­ter as An­gry – is never dull. At five foot one inch, Rose Tat­too’s plain-talk­ing front­man is a small guy with big opin­ions, and when we talk in Lon­don, life, death, pol­i­tics, vi­o­lence, po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness, loy­alty, reli­gion, hon­our and even pae­dophilia are all dis­cussed.

A band who shared both pro­duc­tion team (Vanda and Young) and record la­bel (Al­bert Pro­duc­tions) with AC/DC, not to men­tion a deep kin­ship with their fel­low Aussies,

Rose Tat­too are a five-piece from Syd­ney whose blues-drenched, sewer-rat rock’n’roll em­bod­ies the singer’s own bru­tal, un­com­pro­mis­ing per­son­al­ity.

An­der­son re­mains among rock mu­sic’s most fas­ci­nat­ing char­ac­ters. Rose Tat­too’s spot at the 1981 Read­ing Fes­ti­val be­came etched into the event’s folk­lore. That day, the singer shocked 30,000 pun­ters by smack­ing him­self in the face with a mi­cro­phone and then, his face smeared with blood, rais­ing the mic stand, slam­ming it through the wooden stage be­fore ex­it­ing to the wings.

Years later, Rose Tat­too’s in­flu­ence was con­firmed when Guns N’ Roses cov­ered the

Tatts’ song Nice Boys on Live ?!*@ Like A Sui­cide and later in­vited them to re­unite as spe­cial guests for the Aus­tralian leg of GN’R’s Use Your Il­lu­sion tour.

But there was a flip-side. In 1987 An­der­son had a com­pletely un­rep­re­sen­ta­tive solo pop hit called Sud­denly, which the pro­duc­ers of the day­time soap opera Neigh­bours used to sound­track the wed­ding be­tween Char­lene Robin­son (Kylie Minogue) and Scott Robin­son (Ja­son Dono­van). The un­likely top-five suc­cess of Sud­denly made An­gry feel like “a le­git­i­mate song­writer”, and af­ter he sang it on that year’s Top Of The Pops Christ­mas spe­cial Cliff Richard told him he loved it.

Over­whelm­ingly, though, Rose Tat­too are known as a volatile gang of beer-swill­ing, street­fight­ing gut­ter urchins. But time catches up with us all, and one by one the band’s core has eroded. Drum­mer Dal­las ‘Dig­ger’ Roy­all passed away in 1991, fol­lowed by co-found­ing slide-gui­tar ex­po­nent Pete Wells and bas­sist Ian Rilen, both in 2006. An­other bas­sist, Lobby Loyde, died in 2007 and, two years later they lost gui­tarist Mick Cocks.

Not un­rea­son­ably, An­der­son’s un­de­sired sta­tus as the last sur­viv­ing mem­ber of their orig­i­nal lineup weighs heavy on his mind. He’s also very aware of the scru­tiny that in­evitably faces any Tatts lineup with­out lynch­pin Pete Wells. In typ­i­cally raw and graphic fash­ion, he jus­ti­fies the rea­sons for the lat­est Rose Tat­too re­union: “I saw Pete in hos­pi­tal dur­ing his fi­nal weeks,” he re­counts sadly. “We sat to­gether for a cou­ple of hours as he drifted in and out of con­scious­ness. When I held his hand and asked: ‘What do you want me to do [about the band]?’ Pete could only ac­knowl­edge by the rolling of his eyes or mov­ing his fin­gers.

“I was look­ing for some sort of di­rec­tion,” he says. “Rose Tat­too was al­ways Pete’s band – he was its boss. He had just enough con­scious­ness to re­ply: ‘Fuck ’em.’ Ev­ery­one ex­pected us to just fold up and go away, but here was Pete telling me that the band had to go on.”

Wells had fought in vain to play on the Tatts’ most re­cent al­bum, Blood Broth­ers, re­leased in 2007 a year af­ter he passed away.

“We tried on sev­eral oc­ca­sions to get Pete out of hos­pi­tal and play a cou­ple of so­los, even if he was hooked up to machines,” An­der­son ex­plains. “I know that sounds overly dra­matic, but he wanted to leave his mark. Sadly it didn’t hap­pen.”

There fol­lowed yet an­other fatality, that of Mick Cocks, who did man­age to per­form on Blood Broth­ers de­spite be­ing gravely ill.

“All of us knew that he was dy­ing,” An­der­son says. “We were aware that the next tour would be Mick’s last.

And so it proved. Apart from me he was the last mem­ber of the orig­i­nal line-up, and his pass­ing re­ally took the wind out of my sails. I came home and won­dered what to do with my­self.”

Af­ter play­ing the char­ac­ter Iron­bar in the 1985 block­buster film Mad Max Beyond Thun­der­dome,

An­der­son might well have con­sid­ered an act­ing ca­reer. In­stead, de­fy­ing a past ev­ery bit as colour­ful as his body art, he turned to pol­i­tics. Us­ing his birth name, Gary An­der­son, he ran for the Se­nate as a can­di­date for the con­ser­va­tive Na­tional Party. As the grand­son of a postal ser­vice union of­fi­cial and com­ing from a Labour-vot­ing back­ground, it was a huge U-turn.

“Things be­gan to change once I es­caped those blink­ered view­points and got out into the work­force,” he ex­plains. “For two years I did an ap­pren­tice­ship as a fit­ter and turner, and when things turned to shit the union didn’t pro­tect us at all. As I read things and ex­pe­ri­enced more of life, my world view ma­tured.”

In align­ing to the Aus­tralian Lib­erty Al­liance Party, with a prin­ci­pal man­date to “pre­vent the Is­lami­sa­tion of Aus­tralia”, An­der­son ren­dered him­self con­tro­ver­sial to an en­tirely new de­mo­graphic.

Back in 2012 he ap­peared in a doc­u­men­tary se­ries called Go Back To Where You Came From, in which he trav­elled to war-torn Kabul to meet some of those who sought to flee their home­land in search of sanc­tu­ary. Be­fore go­ing there, he in­sisted: “I don’t ac­cept the boat peo­ple at all. Don’t tell me about what a hard time you’ve had. The first thing you’ve shown me is no sense of re­spect. End of story. Don’t bother.” But hav­ing put him­self in the po­si­tion to un­der­stand their des­per­ate plight, those views soft­ened.

“I wanted peo­ple to see the real story through the eyes of a skep­tic,” he states now. “Af­ter go­ing to Afghanistan and liv­ing with those peo­ple, sit­ting at their ta­bles, eat­ing their food, meet­ing their chil­dren and lis­ten­ing to their sto­ries, I get it now. I un­der­stand why peo­ple who are pur­sued by ex­trem­ists do those things. I just wish they didn’t have to.

“My mo­ti­va­tion to get into pol­i­tics was to help fix a va­ri­ety of things, in­clud­ing the poor pay of teach­ers and nurses,” he con­tin­ues. “I soon re­alised that you can’t pay them what they de­serve, as those is­sues are sim­ply a foot­ball. So you keep the teach­ers poor and the nurses work­ing long hours. But what peo­ple don’t re­alise is that when Labour gets in they don’t fix those prob­lems ei­ther.

“Look, I ran for a fed­eral seat, then for a state one and fi­nally for the se­nate, and it soon be­came ob­vi­ous that both par­ties are as bad as each other,” he an­nounces. “The Who ar­tic­u­lated it per­fectly: ‘Meet the new boss, the same as the old boss’ [from Won’t Get Fooled Again]. I will be a con­ser­va­tive for the rest of my days, but I’ve got a foot in both camps. Power is all about keep­ing peo­ple at odds with one an­other.”

In 2015 An­der­son with­drew his can­di­dacy due to “per­sonal rea­sons”. So is his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer now over com­pletely?

“Oh, abso-fuck­ing­lutely,” he replies flatly. “I still say things at gigs, but that’s just to plant the seeds of thought.”

Af­ter what he terms his “flir­ta­tion” with states­man­ship, An­der­son was ready to “buy a bush block and raise a veg­gie patch, shoot feral an­i­mals and be­come a her­mit”. But then, with Rose Tat­too out to pas­ture, last sum­mer the or­gan­is­ers of Ger­many’s Bang Your Head Fes­ti­val booked the An­gry An­der­son Band.

“I had been won­der­ing whether to bury the whole mu­sic thing, but Bang Your Head gave me the kick in the gut that I needed,” he en­thuses. “It was so ex­hil­a­rat­ing, I had to give things an­other go. Plus it gave me an­other rea­son to take up train­ing again, also to look at my diet and seek some longevity in my life.

“But it all comes back to one thing – this fuck­ing ob­ses­sion with mu­sic. Be­ing out on stage, with the crowd singing louder than the band, that’s an un­be­liev­able feel­ing. On this [Rose Tat­too] tour there has been younger peo­ple [in the au­di­ences] – chicks too. We never had that be­fore. Boys and girls to­gether makes things more in­ter­est­ing. I’ve al­ways ac­knowl­edged the role of women, though it’s not as if I strive to be PC or any­thing. That said, my mother was a woman. And so was ev­ery girl­friend I ever had. Though I did have a re­la­tion­ship with a… well, that’s an­other story. Maybe I’d bet­ter save that for the mem­oirs.”

In re­boot­ing Rose Tat­too, An­der­son started with a blank can­vas, al­though slide gui­tarist Dai Pritchard, a Tatts mem­ber since 2007, would re­tain his place. One other name was on the cards from the be­gin­ning was former AC/DC man Mark Evans, a no-brainer as the bass player.

“In the early days the Tatts were AC/DC’s fave band to go and see. That’s how we got signed to Alberts, they rec­om­mended us,” An­der­son ex­claims. “Mal­colm and An­gus [Young] and par­tic­u­larly Bon [Scott] all jammed with us back then. Mark has made no se­cret of want­ing to join our band, and fi­nally the stars lined up.”

An­other mu­si­cian with the blue blood of Aus­tralian rock roy­alty in his veins is gui­tarist Bob

“I’m en­joy­ing prov­ing peo­ple wrong who said we couldn’t ex­ist with­out [gui­tarist] Peter Wells.”

Spencer, who had played with both Sky­hooks and The An­gels. But with reg­u­lar drum­mer Paul DeMarco im­pris­oned for il­le­gal firearm pos­ses­sion and mem­ber­ship of a gun-run­ning syn­di­cate, the fi­nal piece of the jigsaw pre­sented An­der­son with a dilemma.

“I promised Marco that I wouldn’t re-form the band with­out him, but I went ahead and did it any­way,” he puffs. “He un­der­stands why. When Marco gets out of jail in 2020 the band will wel­come him back – so long as he’s done with his drug prob­lem. He may be out on pa­role next year. Let’s face it, fa­mil­iar­ity with the crim­i­nal el­e­ment hardly makes him unique in this band.”

For the band’s re­cent Eu­ro­pean dates, Aussie singer Jimmy Barnes’s son Jackie played drums.

There’s strong talk not only of a re­turn to Eu­ro­pean tour­ing in 2019, but also of a new Rose Tat­too stu­dio al­bum.

“Well, why not?” An­der­son says, smil­ing. “Guy writes, Bob writes, and Mark, as it turns out, writes too. He’s not very pro­lific, but he can come up with a tune ev­ery now and again. The next prob­lem is whether Marco can get a visa to tour over­seas. Fin­gers crossed.”

Only a hand­ful of bands have dealt with the deaths of five mem­bers, fewer still when the deaths were the con­se­quence of en­tirely dif­fer­ent strains of can­cer. An­der­son emits a rue­ful chuckle at the sug­ges­tion that Rose Tat­too are the band that re­fused to die.

“Yeah,” he re­sponds even­tu­ally. “Pete Wells some­times spoke about the fact that we had cre­ated some­thing that would live for­ever, which made him very happy. Prov­ing peo­ple wrong who said we couldn’t ex­ist with­out Peter Wells is some­thing that I’m en­joy­ing – a lot.”

When asked if he’s do­ing this for the com­bined mem­o­ries the fallen five, An­der­son nods and says solemnly: “Yeah. At a gig a few days ago I ran into a guy who’d waited thirty-five years to see this band. That re­ally moved me.”

But enough about Rose Tat­too. Let’s talk An­gry An­der­son. At the grand old age of 71, does he still con­sider him­self a hard man? Well, there’s no ar­gu­ment when he fixes me with a steely gaze and replies: “Yup. Peo­ple still ask whether I’m still an­gry,” he adds with a calm au­thor­ity. “Even if I don’t show it, I’m boil­ing in­side.”

What sort of thing would make you turn an­gry?

“I would kill some­body who threat­ened my fam­ily,” he says, gri­mac­ing, and goes on to tell about when he over­heard the “dis­gust­ing re­marks” made about his daugh­ter by a gang of youths in a fast-food restau­rant. When events es­ca­lated and both par­ties stood their ground, “I knew it wasn’t go­ing to end well. Sud­denly, the me of old was back,” he says. “Even­tu­ally they backed off.”

What else makes you vi­o­lent?

“Oh, there’s a long list,” he says, laugh­ing. “For in­stance, some­one break­ing into my house. And don’t try to take my guns away. It’s be­ing done in a sneaky way, but our rights for assem­bly free­dom of speech are be­ing eroded. Schools are be­com­ing places of in­doc­tri­na­tion and not ed­u­ca­tion, telling them what and not how, to think. Th­ese are things I wanted to fight from the in­side.”

Let’s not sugar-coat it: An­der­son has done some bad things in his life, al­though the dys­func­tion of adult­hood was to some de­gree pre­de­ter­mined by be­ing sex­u­ally, phys­i­cally and men­tally abused as a child and raised by a sin­gle mum.

“I was con­stantly be­lit­tled and beaten by my fa­ther, and also a vic­tim of pae­dophilia by an­other fam­ily mem­ber,” he says can­didly. “On top of be­ing a lit­tle guy, it was a lot to deal with.”

“Peo­ple still ask whether I’m still an­gry. Even if I don’t show it, I’m boil­ing in­side.”

Can Rose Tat­too’s last man stand­ing put his hand on heart and claim to be a good man?

“Fuck yeah,” he fires right back. “In my early thir­ties I felt like I was my fa­ther’s son. That bloke was cer­ti­fi­able and did some strange and aw­ful things. But dur­ing the 1970s it dawned on me that I was a re­ally, re­ally good per­son. Par­ent­hood was what changed me the most. Nowa­days I be­lieve in good things and I help other peo­ple when I can. I might be broke, but I’m re­ally, re­ally happy with the way I turned out.”

An­gry An­der­son andPete Wells in 2003.“My mo­ti­va­tion to get into pol­i­tics was to help fix a va­ri­ety of things.”

An­der­son (right) as Iron­bar in the 1985 film Mad MaxBeyond Thun­der­dome.

Peter Wells and An­gry An­der­son with Rose Tat­too at the 1981 Read­ing Fes­ti­val.

The Scarred For Life (’82) lineup of Rose Tat­too: Peter Wells, Rob Ri­ley, An­gry An­der­son, Ge­ordie Leach, Dal­las Royal.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.