How Tex Perkins still entertains three generations at once

Tex Perkins isn’t like most musicians. While many fire up and fade out, the grandiose frontman has successfully been swooning Aussie crowds since ’83.

After fronting bands The Cruel Sea and the recently reunited Beasts of Bourbon, the singer’s latest venture Tex Perkins and the Fat Rubber Band has gained the tick of approval from young music lovers nationwide. It’s even garnered them them a headline spot at The Gum Ball this April.

I caught up with Perkins to discuss resonating with three generations of Aussies listeners, coming up with band names, his ‘rural’ live performances, and music being a teacher and a mystery.

tex perkins the gum ball bluesfest
Photo: LisaG Photography

Before he plays The Gum Ball and Bluesfest this April, we thought it high time to catch up with Tex Perkins.

HAPPY: You’re soon to be headlining The Gum Ball festival. What’re you most looking forward to about that?

TEX: That’s crazy, we’re headlining?! How did that happen? I don’t know, I’m looking forward to understanding what the hell Gum Ball actually is. I’m all ears, and eyes, and a bit of nose too. Actually, I’m mostly nose.

HAPPY: To be headlining festivals still in 2019 is quite an achievement. Why do you think your music continues to resonate with younger generations?

TEX: The younger generation. I think our music has the ability to please unborn children, and very, very, very elderly people, and a couple of people in between those extremes. We have distorted guitar so I think that wins over the younger generation every time, they’re suckers for the old distorted guitar. They love guitar. We have a mixture of instruments, and we’re very flexible, and that’s why we’re The Fat Rubber Band.

HAPPY: What inspired the music that you’ve been making with the Fat Rubber Band? What inspired that swampy blues sound?

TEX: Well, it’s a collaboration that started between me and Mitch Walker, or should I say Mitch Walker and I. We do a duo together, but then we also expanded into The Fat Rubber Band which includes a bass player and two drummers, we’re a mix as I say of distorted folk music, but heavy on percussion, we’re kind of a mix between The Doobie Brothers and Black Sabbath, Steely Dan and The Stooges.

HAPPY: So how would you describe the live show?

TEX: Incredibly danceable but surprising and thought-provoking at the same time. It’s traditional and it’s futuristic. It’s rural, and no it’s not urban at all. It’s rural music but with leaves and dirt on it.

HAPPY: Well that’s one way of describing it. You’re also going to be playing Bluesfest again in April! What’s your favourite thing about playing Bluesfest, and festivals in general?

TEX: Well, for the fans just understand there’s no sound check, with festivals you roll the dice, you get up there, plug it in, and hope it sounds good and you never have any idea really. Festivals are an in and out kind of thing. We’re going to be very excited, and we’re going to make all sorts of interesting sounds that I think will please people. I think The Fat Rubber Band is about to reach its creative peak, so I think myself very lucky to have stumbled across this particular band at this particular time in history.

HAPPY: So are you guys recording any music, or do you have plans to?

TEX: Yeah, we’ve been working on a recording for quite a while now at Matt Walker’s home studio so we’ve been tunnelling away in his back garden, and that’s something we will probably release in the coming years. It could be years, we’re in no hurry.

HAPPY: What’re some of the themes that are coming up so far in the writing process of this record so far?

TEX: Well, it’s always the same really. It’ always an examination of morality, and a pondering of the very nature of existence itself.

HAPPY: You’ve had a few great band names over the years, including the Cruel Sea, and your latest Tex Perkins and the Fat Rubber Band. I heard a story that you came up with some band names by flipping through TV commercials. Is that true? Can you tell me the story?

TEX: It wasn’t Cruel Sea, it was a different band. There were a bunch of us in a lounge room watching television and an ad came on for an ad called Toilet Duck, and that was followed by an ad for Chicken Holder. Toilet Duck was a toilet cleaning product, and Chicken Holder was a wire frame you would put your chicken on when you put it in the oven, someone looked around the room and said “who wants to be in Chicken Holder and who wants to be in Toilet Duck?” We indeed did form two bands that day. That’s what us kids used to do, if there were more than three people in a room we’d start a band.

HAPPY: The Beasts are back together, you’re a busy man always playing shows. What keeps you so inspired to create and perform?

TEX: It’s what I do. I’m one of those incredibly lucky people who has somehow made what they’re obsessed with and what they love doing into what they do. It’s not only the way I feed my family, it really is what I love to do. I just really love creating and playing music, as I get older I’m not so much in love with the travel and the performing parts at all, but I just love music. I’m still deeply in love with the idea of hearing music and playing music and trying to get better at music without understanding. I’m not a scholar, I’m not learned, I don’t know anything truly about the techniques or the science behind music and yet I’m total student of it. I want it to remain a mystery to me whilst getting better at it. I want it always to be something that I’m fascinated by and confused by.


Catch Tex Perkins live:

Fri 12 April – The Espy, Melbourne VIC
Sat 13 April – Home Hill Winery, Ranelagh TAS
18-22 April – Bluesfest, Byron Bay NSW – Tickets
25-28 April – The Gum Ball, Dashville NSW – Tickets
Thu May – The Curtin, Melbourne VIC
Fri 24 May – Spotted Mallard, Melbourne VIC
Sat 25 May – Caravan Music Club, Bentleigh East VIC
Fri 31 May – The Brass Monkey, Sydney NSW