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*Spiderbait interview (with Janet)
*Spiderbait Discography (all available on Whammo)
*Spiderbait Australian Tour dates


Back in the old Recovery (ABCTV) days, I was blessed with a virtually free reign, supported by a mob of music-loving media talents that were keen to promote Australian music. It was a boom period for local acts and live music was at a premium, including pub-graduates like Tumbleweed, The Meanies, Cosmic Psychos, Powderfinger, Mark Of Cain, The Superjesus, Silverchair and Spiderbait. Only half of those acts survived the lean years after the mid-90s boom and it would be fair to say that among those survivors, even fewer maintained their momentum to remain as forces in the marketplace. At an Easter Show gig back in those heady days, I was assistant-director for a 7-camera shoot of the event and while I balanced on a tower among the thriving sea of teenagers, I marvelled at the sound created by the 3 regional Victorians known as Spiderbait. I may have almost cried when The Meanies called it a day and lamented the loss of Tumbleweed, but as long as The Bait was still making music, I believed the essence of that era was still alive. So here we are nearly a decade later and as I write this intro, Spiderbait are #1 on the Aria singles chart with their rendition of Leadbelly/Ram Jam’s Black Betty. Even better, few people are yet to discover the quality of the new album, Tonight Alright! But a national tour and fresh single release, F**kin’ Awesome, should convince punters to check out the LP, which I’d rate as one of my favourite albums for 2004. With Sylvia Massy Shivy at the helm, the veteran rockers finally found a producer who could do justice to their massive guitar sound (rarely successfully captured on tape) and the result is an album that would make any retro-rock act hang up the guitars and get day jobs. I recently caught up with Janet (bass/vox) to reminisce about the ol’ days, celebrate the spirit of hard rock and discuss the resurgence of Spiderbait…

Whammo: So you're on tour at the moment. It looks like a big event.
Janet: Yeah, with the Hoodoo Gurus. We've done 6 weeks and we've got three weeks left. Then we'll do our own tour, then to the US and the UK.
Whammo: The single (Black Betty) is going really well, so I assume the kids are turning up in big numbers.
Janet: It's been good. It's such a huge tour. We're doing a lot of regional areas and we don't often get a chance to play in a lot of those areas. We're kind of regional kids ourselves, so it's good to be out of the city for a while.
Whammo: The album is awesome.
Janet: Thank you.
Whammo: It's so over-the-top rock. I feel like there should be pyrotechnics involved.
Janet: (laughs) That'd be good.
Whammo: And I was thinking that Kram could do a Motley Crue thing where the drums turn upside-down while he does a solo.
Janet: I would love that. I would love that so much. We were talking about getting a catwalk where guitar solos could be done, but that was as far as it went. The upside-down drum kit? Definitely.
Whammo: Well, we'll look into it. Your people can talk to my people. I think I've still got one in the garage.
Janet: I think all the pyrotechnics in Australia have been used by Kiss on their tour at the moment, so I don't think we'd be able to find any.
Whammo: (laughs) So, was there a bit of time between drinks, where you didn't record for a while?
Janet: I think we put the last record out, and then did some overseas touring. We went over to the UK a couple of times and travelled through there. We did some bits of touring but nothing as extensive as what we're doing now. Then the process of recording over in California was pretty drawn out. From the time we started writing to the record being on the shelf, was nearly a year in total.
Whammo: And you had a great producer to work with.
Janet: Yeah, she was wonderful. She basically headed out to the middle of the hills and set up this little studio in the middle of a country town and she's got such an amazing CV. It was great to work with her and hear all the stories.
Whammo: Did she help in terms of guitar sounds or did you already have that together?
Janet: She was in on the whole process. When we were doing the demoing, we were sending bits over to her and she was having her say on what she thought and making suggestions. She doesn't just take a band and turn them into another band. She just works with what's there. Basically, Whit (guitar) used the SG and the Marshall that he uses everywhere and on every other recording. She just got those raw sounds down on tape fantastically.
Whammo: It does sound very raw but the guitar sounds just sound so fat!
Janet: Yeah, there's something in the water in America. She's had a lot of experience and she's done a lot of metal stuff, so she's a real guitar fan and obsessed over that.
Whammo: With all these rock revival bands, we're hearing a lot of those wispy top end sounds and I reckon we're missing a lot of the grunt. I can't listen to rock without grunt.
Janet: I know. It's not rock then, is it?
Whammo: No, it's poofy, not that there's anything wrong with that.
Janet: We were all fans of gutsy rock music. When we first started listening to a lot of alternative music, it was that nifty punk stuff. We went and saw the Cosmic Psychos and bands like that. There was no pretension about them. They just played solid rock n roll in stinky pubs. They were always very impressive shows, so the live thing has always been important for us. Getting that heavy heavy sound has always been a really important part of it.
Whammo: I've been around for a while, so I agree. I was seeing a lot of those bands, like The Meanies, The Weed (Tumbleweed) etcetera. I miss The Meanies.
Janet: Same. They were a huge influence. They were also instrumental in getting us our first gigs and us getting signed to Augogo Records at the start.
Whammo: In terms of musical trends, we had a lot of big-sounding bands through the era you'd probably associate with Grunge, then a spate of bands in the 90s, which you were a part of. There was a big alternative push where the charts flipped upside down. We've lost a lot of those bands now.
Janet: It's a shame.
Whammo: Well, what I'm getting at guys are the flag-bearers now.
Janet: (laughs) We were stupid enough to hang on.
Whammo: You guys have always been a personal fave, so I was worried when I didn't hear anything for a while. I was hoping you'd make another big charge.
Janet: Yeah, it's funny because I’d keep getting phone calls from friends, saying, "I heard you guys split up". And I'd say "No, we're just sitting on our arses, doing nothing."
Whammo: So, are you still out in the country?
Janet: No, we're all back in Melbourne because it's easier to tour and get around, but all our family are still in the country and we still get up there as much as we can and relax.
Whammo: What's the interest overseas? Have you got heaps of people that are keen?
Janet: Yeah, it's weird. America's always been interested but they didn't really get it and they didn't get two singers or a singing drummer. It's been a bit of a dilemma. But this record, they’ve all gone "great, we love it". Interscope in the States want to put it out over there. From that, you get interest in the UK and other countries. Everyone follows America, unfortunately, as if they were setting all the trends, which is just not true.
Whammo: Well Whammo's aim is to push Aussie music anywhere, whether it's here or overseas.
Janet: Good on you. That's fantastic.
Whammo: But it's weird, what they bite at and what they don't, especially the Americans.
Janet: They've got such a strong domestic market. I mean, we went through a stage where we had a strong domestic market, like you were saying about the 90s. But you knew it wasn't going to last because it was just...too good. You go to the UK and it's the same thing: all UK bands. I guess radio supports their local stuff more so than here. Maybe there's more of a live venue scene.
Whammo: I think you're right about radio. You know, they set the minimum amount of Australian content to a certain percentage and it just so happens that Aussie acts have nearly the same percentage of the market. So if they were to set the percentage at 20%, we'd suddenly see 20% of the sales go to Aussie acts.
Janet: That's amazing.
Whammo: Isn't it? I researched it a couple of years ago and it was a real eye-opener. It's a shame they don't push it more. FBI are. They're doing a good job.
Janet: I wonder what the percentages are overseas, in the UK or US. Do you know?
Whammo: No, but they naturally play their local music because it's valued. Australian programmers hear a big overseas act and naturally play it because the act is well known. But isn't an act like Spiderbait big after constantly touring and consistently charting?
Janet: You know, when bands came out from America, they'd often mention Australian bands that they'd been influenced by. Like Nirvana saying how much they loved the Cosmic Psychos.
Whammo: And the Eastern Dark.
Janet: Yeah, these obscure little Australian bands were so influential over there.
Whammo: Rollins often said the Beasts Of Bourbon were the greatest rock act and he was right behind the Mark Of Cain as well. I guess they value our stuff even more than we do. So, you'll be going to the US as well as the UK?
Janet: By the end of the year we'll have been to both those places. It's just a crapshoot. Something might happen, something might not.
Whammo: I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you. The album is awesome. I feel like raising my fist when I hear that album.
Janet: There's been a few cigarettes lighters raised at different points.
Whammo: Every cigarette lighter should be raised. I think you guys should have ridiculous podiums as well. So I've got the plan for the stage: upside down drum kit + pyrotechnics + ridiculous podiums.
Janet: (laughs) Sounds good.

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The music market is fickle and it's probably fair to say that Spiderbait suffered through guilt by association when the next generation turned their backs on the mid-90s alt-rock phenomenon. When you listen to the opening track of Tonight Alright - the jump-up jammin Take Me Back - you realise that Spiderbait play beyond any trend; they blast any of the 'new rock' wannabes off the stage with such a natural flair for power that even their healthy sense of humour and love for ironic rock-worship can't interfere with the dramatic impression they make. With producer, Sylvia Massy Shivy (Prince, Tool, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash), The Bait have finally found a technical magician who can share their love for over-the-top rockness. Part of that 'I'm not worthy' love for riffs and slammin beats has risen to the surface in the form of their cover of Black Betty, but this 3-piece don't need to cover the classics to prove that their hearts and souls belong to music; you only need to hear the chuggin Put It Down, the rollin' 5th Set and the frenetic In The City. I've been hanging out for a long time to hear something this unashamedly huge, loud and heavy, but it's a bonus to have the extra dimension of pop-savvy hooks; always a feature of Spiderbait's music. Grunge may be dead but I see no reason to leave behind that thick, crunchy, fuzzy distortion that we fell in love with; the riffs that gave us 'heavy' without 'metal'; the sound that Spiderbait promise to revive with Tonight Alright!
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With its title track lifted from the album Grand Slam, this six-track release features Jellybean Drifter (Whitt Remix) and two versions of the title track (the album version plus the Slow Ectoplasm Remix). This is one for both the serious, Spidery collector and the indie thrash fan in general.
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Bonus CD Rom component featuring 'Dirty' video Spiderbait's fifth studio album, and the follow-up to their Top 10 Grand Slam album. The Flight Of Wally Funk was produced by ARIA award winning engineer Magoo (Regurgitator, Midnight Oil, Cruel Sea). This album returns to true Spiderbait form, with an eclectic creative mix of electronica, trip-hop and guitar-driven rock. Includes the singles Four On the Floor and Outta My Head. Worth buying just for the reflective silver comic-art booklet!
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The first siongle off their 4th studio album, The Flight of Wally Funk, following on from their 1999 Grand Slam album. An insidiously catchy mix of fizzing guitars and funky backbeat put together by the band and producer Magoo (Regurgitator, Cruel Sea, Midnight Oil), Four On The Floor is a worthy successor to classic Spiderbait singles such as Stevie, Calypso and Buy Me A Pony. An attention-grabbing three minutes of hooks primed with the idiosyncratic touches that have helped elevate Spiderbait into the leading ranks of Australian music.
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Inspired by a local landmark in their home town of Finley, New South Wales, where the three members of Spiderbait grew up, The Unfinished Spanish Galleon Of Finley Lake also placed this fun-lovin’ hard rockin’ power-pop trio firmly on Australia’s music map. Released in 1995, their first offering on a major label, this album includes their first Triple J Hottest 100 song, Monty, as well as the infectious singles Sam Gribbles and I Gotta Know - which makes this CD a collection of tasty tunes any wise music fan has just gotta have.
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* Supporting Hoodoo Gurus
23....The Foundry, Cannington WA
24....Prince of Wales Hotel, Bunbury WA
25....Heat, Perth WA
26....Settlers Tavern, Margaret River WA
27....Newport Hotel, Fremantle WA
30....Wintersun Hotel, Geraldton WA
2......Tambrey Centre, Karratha WA
3......Pier Hotel The Esplanade, Port Hedland WA
4......Roebuck Bay Hotel, Broome WA


Alex Lloyd
Bluebottle Kiss
Cat Empire, The
Church, The
Dallas Crane
Eskimo Joe
Hayes, Darren
Kayne Taylor
Little Birdy
Living End
Missy Higgins
Nations By The River
Pan Am
Paul Kelly
Secret Life Of Us
Sleepy Jackson
Something For Kate
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