Interview: Brad Shepherd on the Hoodoo Gurus’ continued search for new inspiration

The ‘Fist Full of Rock’ tour Hoodoo GurusYou Am IJebediah and Adalita are all performing on kicks off in Adelaide tonight before continuing up the east coast into early September, a prime opportunity for Australian rock fans to get a dose of some of the country’s best.

Ahead of the tour, I connect with Gurus guitarist Brad Shepherd as the Sydney group enjoy a much-relished moment of down time in between tours (they’d been on a regional run with You Am I just previous). Our focus quickly turns to the band’s extensive career both in Australia and abroad; from their beginnings in Sydney to now, lauded as one of the country’s best known rock bands.

“When the band first started way back in time immemorial,” he laughs. “We all lived around the inner city of Sydney. We all lived in Darlinghurst and that’s where the band played; we had a following there but it was never our intention to just be an inner city band. We’re not that protective of what we do, we just want people to enjoy what we do and we would want to turn people on to our perception of what good music is about. We would play outer suburban shows and at our earliest opportunity, regional shows. We suffered in the inner city because we were deemed to be uncool at that stage, because we’d go and play in Parramatta and Penrith. There’s no evil genius theory going on in how we should approach shows that are not smack bang in the centre of the city; we just do our thing.”

Tours like these aren’t an excuse for bands like the Gurus to kick back and pull in that pay check off the back of nostalgic albums, oh no. As Shepherd says, the group is working just as hard to maintain that connection with audiences as they did when they were touring the world during the late 1980s.

“I find that we are challenged most by ourselves these days.” he admits. “When we were touring like, 18 months at a time, and did that a lot between 1984 and maybe 1996/1997. We’d go out and play for 18 months at a stretch; it would be Australia, US and Europe. We’d come back through the US and do Australia again. You get pretty tired as a musical unit to be doing that. We set the bar very high for ourselves. We still attempt to attain those heights with every show we do, every performance. That’s really our challenge, to be extraordinary on any given night. That’s still, certainly, my approach to what we do. I think that’s fairly evident when you come and see the Hoodoo Gurus; it’s still pretty ferocious for a bunch of old bastards!”

“I hope that we challenge our audience,” Shepherd furthers. When it can be easier to lean back on the hits and play into the palm of what’s easy, he admits that this hasn’t been part of the Gurus’ M.O.

“I know we do [challenge],” he says. “There are always folks who presume that what the Hoodoo Gurus do is “What’s My Scene?” and “Come Anytime”; that’s good, but that’s just a small portion of what we do. We are ultimately voracious music fans. We’re like archaeologists, we’re still digging through that bottomless pit of the art and culture of music, trying to expose ourselves to new stimuli that will somehow find its way through us and into something interesting that we create, musically. I know that we challenge people and there’s a couple of songs that we do routinely enough that are not to everyone’s taste, but that’s just who we are. That’s really who we are too, that’s just not a perception of who we are. I expect that people can have an open mind about what we do.”

Shepherd reflects on the recent shows with You Am I and comments on the emergence of rock bands such as Bad//Dreems who are taking the ‘Australian rock’ baton forward today. Along with the likes of Hunters and Collectors, The Go-Betweens and others, the Hoodoo Gurus have been inspirations for so many contemporaries who deftly swing between the indie rock and heavier genres in Australia today, something Shepherd aligns with that untouchable energy that can infect a music fan at any rock and roll show.

“It’s extraordinary to experience live music, the energy inside the room. I guess there’s an argument that rock and roll is a purist medium these days but it certainly has its place and nothing can replicate it. EDM or whatever cannot replicate the same experience as electric guitars…there’s something truly unique and galvanising about that experience.”

“With these shows we’ve been playing with You Am I,” he says. “Some of them have been pub shows and some of them have been theatre shows. We played the Canberra Theatre a couple of weeks ago and I looked down into the audience and there were three kids, no older than 16, and I found that really encouraging. There was this moment where they were me in the 70’s; I could see in their faces the enthusiasm that I had when I would go to Festival Hall in Brisbane and see Black Sabbath or Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow or Mad As Anything or Suzi Quatro, you know? They were very much in tune with the very notion of live music performance. It was very encouraging to see.”

A FIST FULL OF ROCK AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES

August 25th | Thebarton Theatre, ADELAIDE
August 26th | Forum Theatre, MELBOURNE
August 31st | Enmore Theatre, SYDNEY
September 1st | Nightquarter, GOLD COAST
September 2nd | Eaton Hills Hotel, BRISBANE