The Collapse Board Interview – The Beasts

The Collapse Board Interview – The Beasts
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The Beasts of Bourbon played their final show in April 2018, a fundraiser for long-term bassist Brian Hooper. Although Hooper was able to perform with the band at the show, sadly he died six days later. Spurred on by the band’s singer, Tex Perkins, the remaining Beasts of Bourbon alumni gathered together in Melbourne’s Soundpark Studios with no major intentions other than to get together and see what happened. From a series of older tracks presented by the band’s members, some loose sketches and a couple of ideas for cover songs, a new album, Still Here, was recorded. Guitarist Spencer P Jones, a founding and ever-present member of the band was sadly only able to contribute to one song on the album. He passed away in August 2018.

We spoke to bassist Boris Sujdovic about recording the new album and the band’s upcoming Australian tour.

Collapse Board: The press release for the new album says that Tex Perkins, the band’s singer, got everyone together, so how did that come about in the first place?

Boris Sujdovic : Well unfortunately we were all together at Brian Hooper’s funeral, the bass player for a while, and we also knew that Spencer [P Jones], the guitarist, was really unwell as well and that he probably only had a few months left as well. So Tex thought “Hey, we’re all here, Spencer’s still here, why don’t we just go in the studio and see what comes out.”

CB: Was it an easy decision for everyone to do, to go into the studio and look to make an album?

BS: I think so because we knew that Spencer could at least come into the studio for a day or two. That was good, it made it easier, I guess, because we knew that Spencer could actually participate. 

CB: How was that first day in the studio?

BS: It was good. We didn’t prepare the songs, there’s a couple of songs that we sent to each other as demos, so I guess everyone knew a couple of the songs we were doing, the rest we just came up with “This song needs some words, this song goes like this.” We just started doing it like that.

CB: When it’s been a while between while between studio sessions for the band, does it come together quickly?

BS: With this one, we just started playing, everyone was basically just learning the arrangements of the songs, the chords, the structure and all that. So I guess we were just in the studio rehearsing the songs. We’d run through a song one or two or three times but they were also recording at the same time. So as soon as there was a song that we all got through without making a mistake, it was like “Yeah, fine, let’s move on.” It’s a bit weird that way but it works, and who knows, if we’d spent more time working it out, we might have fucked it up, you know.

CB: Was there an intention from the start to come up with an album to release or was it more to see how it went?

BS: Yeah, I think there was always an intention to release it. We were all pretty confident, we’re all respectful of each other and each other’s abilities, we knew we could come up with something good. We kind of did it before for our first album, The Axeman’s Jazz, where we just went in and recorded it live on the spot.

CB: What was the mood like during recording with Spencer being ill?

BS: It wasn’t too bad. I mean Spencer came in for a couple of hours on a day or two and that was great when he came in, and really once you get kind of caught up in the recording process, doing it all on the spot, we didn’t have much time to think about anything else.

CB: When you talk about making them up on the spot, presumably they came in as everyone’s demos that had been sent amongst the band and it was fleshing out the arrangement rather than writing new songs.

BS: Some of the songs were passed around as demos before we got into the studio but we’d never played them together, we’d just Dropboxed each other the songs. But on some the drummer started playing and then the guitars started playing and Tex started singing and we got a song. There’s one or two like that on the album.

CB: There’s a lot of gallows humour in the album’s lyrics was that how the band dealt with what was going on? Was it intentional because it’s not a sentimental album, it’s full of very black humour.

BS: I can’t say it was intentional, we didn’t go in with that idea, we didn’t really know what we were going to come out with, it’s just what came out. So it wasn’t intentional.

CB: Spencer’s song on the album ‘At The Hospital’ has a very dark humour behind it. What did everyone think of the song?

BS: Well, to us, it’s kind of funny because that song sums up Spencer very well. To imagine him sitting in a hospital in the waiting room just observing all this mayhem going on around him. Basically I laugh every time I hear it, because that’s Spencer one hundred percent, his observations.

CB: Kim Salmon’s ‘Pearls Before Swine’ is an older song of his, which references the band’s hard living reputation. I don’t know if it’s mythology or if it’s actually true.

BS: – It’s a bit of both really I guess –

CB: With getting older, is there any regrets about living that rock and roll lifestyle? 

BS: I guess you can’t have regrets, it was what it was, it is what it is. I don’t think on the whole you can regret things.

CB: Your song on the album, ‘Don’t Pull Me Over’, where did that come from? Was it an older song or something that you came up in the studio?

BS: That was a song I had lying around. The idea was that everyone would be represented on the album, that was the whole point of the album. Because normally it’s Tex and Spencer and Kim that write most of the songs. That’s why we included a song written by James Baker, who was the original drummer, and a song by Brian, and, yeah, I had that lying around and just presented that. That was sent as a demo but no one had played it until we got into the studio.

CB: Did the final version change much from the demo you first presented?

BS: Yeah, a bit, in the way we recorded it. When it was time to do the song, they pulled me over to say “How does this go Boris?” So I started playing the bass and Tony [Pola] just started drumming. Tex had the words so he started singing it. Then when the guitarists thought it was time to come in they just jumped in and jumped out. I think, because it’s basically the same all the way through, we only ran through it twice. It might even have just been once. It was “Yeah, yeah, that sounds good, over to the next song”.

CB: There’s two covers on the album, one by Frank Zappa, one by Warren Zevon. Who suggested those and were they songs you already knew?

BS: Well Tex usually comes up with great ideas for covers that he thinks we can do. I’d heard the Frank Zappa one but I hadn’t heard the Warren Zevon one. Once again it was “These are the chords, it goes like this”. They were both done in one or two takes as well. From not knowing the song to recording it in one or two run throughs. But it worked out, it sounds like they were worked out and rehearsed for months but they were done virtually on the spot.

CB: So how long were you actually in the studio recording?

BS: Well, we originally recorded the bones of it over two days because there were about twelve or thirteen songs that we kind of put down, twelve I think it was. So we did that over two days because we wanted Spencer involved and he wasn’t healthy enough to stay around for a long period so we probably would have just got it all done in one day. So the bones of the recording was two days, give or take, and then over the next couple of weeks it was a day here, a day there just adding stuff. Little bits here and here.

CB: I assumed you did it quickly, but I hadn’t realised that it had been done that quickly because I was going to say that it’s really coherent as an album and it flows really well.

BS: It kind of amazes me. With the covers that we did, I’d say Kim and Charlie, the guitarists, they were just playing on the fly basically. They might have heard the songs before, but they’d certainly never played the song before, either of them. And neither had I. We’d just say “Well, these are the chords” and they would just start playing it. Like with ‘Torture’, the Frank Zappa song, I reckon we would have run through that once, twice at the most. And that’s was as we were learning it, it’s not like we learnt the song and then recorded it, we were learning it for the first time and recording it at the same time. It’s kind of strange to do it but it kind of worked.

CB: You’ve changed the name of the band and dropped the ‘Of Bourbon’ bit. What was the reasoning behind that?

BS: The two deaths, Spencer and Brian, Spencer had been an integral part of The Beasts and had done every Beasts Of Bourbon show ever, from the start, and Tex obviously has as well. Kim and I were on the first three albums and then we moved to the UK with The Scientists and there’s been a lot of different band members over the years, but the mainstays were Tex and Spencer denying and we thought that without Spencer it’s not really the Beasts of Bourbon.

CB: Was that decided after Spencer died?

BS: Yes, I think so. Yeah. There was quite a bit going on because we were also booked to do a festival in Spain around this time and obviously we get booked six months in advance and at that stage Spencer was ok and so we agreed to do it. It was supposed to be the original line-up of the Beasts of Bourbon but during that six months Spencer’s health started deteriorating really quickly and we were kind of saying every week “He’ll come through, he’ll make it,” but each week it got worse and eventually we had to make the decision that he wouldn’t be able to do the festival about a month before we were due to go and do it. So all that was going on at the same time so we were devastated to tell him “Spencer, you can’t go mate, you won’t make it back.” He wanted to go and it would have been great but he wouldn’t have made it back, so we had to deal with that at the same time. There was a lot going on.  We did the festival with Charlie, the other guitarist. In the end Spencer realised that he wouldn’t have been able to do it.

CB: You mentioned it briefly before about the changes in the band and reading up it always seems like it was driven by just availability. It wasn’t like band members fell out with each other and were out of the band.

BS: Yeah, kind of. When it first started, for the first year or two it was quite stable, with Kim and Tex and Spencer and me and James Baker, the drummer. It was quite a stable line up. But after about a year and a half or something, Kim and I moved to the UK for a few years, three years, with The Scientists, and we were over there and they started to get quite a few different people, line-up changes and everything, every couple of months there was someone else playing, who was available, because everyone was playing on other bands as well. It was a bit like that.

CB: Was it difficult when when people came in and took your place. With Brian swapping in for quite long periods was there any competition between the two of you?

BS: No, not at all, we were good friends. I’d known Brian since he was quite young, when he first started, we were always good friends. We were living in different cities and all that, but we were good friends.

CB: Have you started rehearsals for the tour yet?

BS: Not yet, no. It won’t take long, we kind of know them. Just a few rehearsals, three or four or something, we’ll be alright. The live shows will be a mixture of the old Beasts of Bourbon stuff and the new album.

Beasts of Bourbon photos from the May 2006 show at QUT in Brisbane.  

The Beasts’ ‘Still Here’ (Bang! Records / Rocket) is out now.

The Beasts 2019 Tour Dates

Thursday 21st February 2019 – Theatre Royal, Castlemaine – Tickets

Friday 22nd February 2019 – Prince Bandroom, St Kilda – Tickets
with guests Dallas Crane

Saturday 23rd February 2019 – Croxton Bandroom, Northcote – Tickets
with guests Dallas Crane

Thursday 28th February 2019 – Tanks Arts Centre, Cairns – Tickets

Friday 1st March 2019 – The Northern, Byron Bay – Tickets
with guests The Johnnys

Saturday 2nd March 2019 – The Triffid, Brisbane – Tickets
with guests The Johnnys

Thursday 7th March 2019 – A.N.U. Canberra – Tickets
with guests The Johnnys

Friday 8th March 2019 – Metro Theatre, Sydney – Tickets
with guests The Johnnys

Saturday 9th March 2019 – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle – Tickets
with guests The Johnnys

Thursday 14th March 2019 – Rock Rover, Fremantle – Tickets
with guests The Painkillers

Friday 15th March 2019 – Rosemount Hotel, Perth – Tickets
with guests The Painkillers

Saturday 16th March 2019 – Rosemount Hotel, Perth – Tickets
with guests The Painkillers

Sunday 17th March 2019 – The Gov, Adelaide – Tickets
with guests The Johnnys

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