Interviews

Death pits during ‘Hot Potato’: The Wiggles chat about reconnecting with their original fans

OG Wiggles

The Wiggles are perhaps one of the only bands in the world that have managed to keep the same fans entertained from childhood until they’re adults.

After recently winning triple j’s Hottest 100 for their cover of Elephant by Tame Impala, The Wiggles have followed it up with ReWiggled, an entire compilation album of covers, calling in help from some of the best musicians in Australia, including Polish Club, DZ Deathrays, The Chats, Stella Donnelly, and San Cisco.

Now, they’re hitting some of the biggest arena’s in Australia, performing children’s music for a crowd of adults who are now drinking beers rather than apple juice.

So before they take the stage for their original fans in Sydney, we had a chat with the Blue Wiggle, Anthony about reconnecting with a somewhat unlikely crowd, and championing Australian talent.

HAPPY: Hi Anthony! How are you going? 

ANTHONY: Yeah good! I’m very good. 

HAPPY: That’s great to hear. How have the first few shows of the tour been?

ANTHONY: We’re doing shows for the children and we’re doing the OGs shows, the over 15s, and mate, they’re so much fun. We’re having a ball. 

HAPPY: Pretty different shows I imagine? 

ANTHONY: You know, they’re not actually that different. Like we rock it out a bit for the OGs, but we stay in character and it’s the audience that are kind of taking it a bit further [laughs]. You know, they’re not drinking cordial while they’re watching us. 

HAPPY: Yeah, it’s funny because you’re doing a really similar show, but the crowds are just completely different, and both crowds are loving it just as much. How does it feel to be connecting with your original fans again, who grew up with you? 

ANTHONY: Oh, it’s the best. When we won the triple j Hottest 100, me, Murray, Jeff, and Greg, we all felt that it was the children who grew up with us basically saying, ‘We still love you guys. You’re a lot of fun.’ And it’s a really nice feeling that two and a half million people voted for that. 

HAPPY: You only started doing the 18 plus shows a few years ago. Did you expect to have such a huge reaction from a crowd that aren’t kids anymore? 

ANTHONY: No, not at all [laughs]. Well, we started doing it for bushfire relief and a couple of other charities, but they sold out in like 5 minutes. So you just don’t know. Then we realised ‘Okay, a lot of people want to see this.’ And we’re not getting any younger, you know, and I thought, why don’t we just get the boys together while we still can and get out there? I’m not making a joke of it, I actually mean it [laughs]. You’ve got to live while you can, you know?

HAPPY: Yeah for sure! And going back to the Hottest 100 win, were you tuned in to the countdown when you were announced as number one?

ANTHONY: We were actually… We were all gathered round, and had no idea. And it was just amazing. It really was.

HAPPY: What was the moment like? What was everyone’s reaction?

ANTHONY: It was actually really emotional. Believe it or not, there were actually some tears being shed. I had to get educated about the Hottest 100. I realised through my daughter how much it means to young people and actually probably not just young people but to a lot of Australia, this is a big, big deal. I remember my daughter the year before, every time a song would be announced, she’d ring up a friend, she’d be happy about it or they’d be having arguments about it [laughs]. And that’s when I kind of realised, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ But I didn’t realise we were going to be in it a year later.

The Wiggles live

HAPPY: Has Kevin Parker been in touch with you about the cover? 

ANTHONY: I’ve just seen him in interviews saying he’s happy with it. That song was so different. We rehearsed that for a week, every day, for hours to get that right before we did the Like A Version. It sounds simple, but it’s not. There’s so much crazy timing in it. So it was great because we make music for children, our music is very simple and upfront, you know, four the floor usually. And so some of those counts for 11 on Elephant, it’s wild, Lochie, wild mate.

HAPPY: Yeah, wow it sounds like it. The way that The Wiggles have been championing Australian bands is incredible. What made you choose to get involved with some of the incredible talent in Australian music?

ANTHONY: Mate, you know, people don’t realise that we play music, we’re a live band, and we’re musicians. And you know, all the great bands that we’ve got in Australia, it’s just great chance to showcase how amazing our talent is in Australia. So, you know, Luca Brasi down in Tassie, we had Emily Wurramara from the top end, Polish Club, DZ Deathrays, and we did cover versions of my daughter’s favourite groups, Lime Cordiale and Tame Impala. There’s just unbelievable talent in Australia, you know. 

HAPPY: Yeah there really is. So with ReWiggled, how did you choose which bands you wanted to include? 

ANTHONY: I am out of touch [laughs], so Basil Cook and Nick Webb from the ABC, they’re really tuned in to triple j and they’d come and they’d say, ‘Look, what do you think of this?’ And they’d tell me about the bands, then they’d play some of their music and I just was amazed by everybody. I wasn’t going, ‘Oh, that’s no good’. They’re all incredible, you know. So that really came from Basil and Nick. 

HAPPY: Oh nice. So did you give the artists any direction as for how to go about the covers or did they have complete creative control? 

ANTHONY: They had complete control… there’s about 1000 songs they could choose from. It was open catalogue, do it your own way, in your style, and yeah, it’s so great to hear people doing songs that you co-wrote. It’s beautiful.

HAPPY: What was it like working with The Chats? Because you’re two very different groups, but the covers you did of each other’s songs worked so incredibly well. 

ANTHONY: I’ve got to thank my daughter for that. She showed us The Chats’ Pub Feed and Smoko. And this was before we did ReWiggled. I rang up Jeff, and I said, ‘You’ve got to see these guys, and you’ve got to see their haircuts.’ Anyway, so Jeff, when ReWiggled came out, as a tribute to them, he got his hair cut exactly like their incredible super mullets.

HAPPY: No way.

ANTHONY: He really did! He went out and got that haircut. And the way they did Can You (Point Your Fingers and Do the Twist?), the energy is unreal. I can’t sing, but the only song I’ve been able to sing in the whole history of the Wiggles is Pub Feed. And I’m not putting on any accent, I speak like that. I relate to these guys [laughs]

HAPPY: Was there anyone else who you worked with that you had a surprising experience with that you weren’t really expecting?

ANTHONY: Oh, Polish Club. When they came and did Apples and Bananas, they just blew our their heads because that’s an old nursery rhyme with two chords, and again, it showcased the energy, the voice. Brilliant.

Then Lime Cordiale, I wrote to Ollie, because I met them about a month before the ARIA Awards, and I said, ‘Mate, do you mind if we do Apple Crumble?’ And he said, ‘Go for it, we’d love to hear it!’ And before we put it on the album, I actually ran it by them and said, ‘You guys okay with this?’ And they just said, ‘We love it.’ [laughs]. They gave it the thumbs up. 

HAPPY: Aw that’s really nice. And all the covers that you did as The Wiggles on the album are all incredible as well. You somehow turned them all into Wiggles songs. Which ones did you have the most fun recording? 

ANTHONY: Well, the one that we didn’t really turn into a Wiggles song, but it was my dream to reconfigure Thunderstruck because I had read that Harry Vanda and George Young, they used to write AC/DC songs on the piano. 

HAPPY: Oh, wow.

ANTHONY: So when we did Thunderstruck I wanted to get the guitar [sings Thunderstruck] – I wanted to get that played on the piano and then it just sort of chilled out the whole tune. And John from Justice Crew, he’s part of the Wiggle family now, and John sang that and I really enjoyed that one. A lot of went into it… a lot went into all the tunes. The easiest song to do was a song by The White Stripes called We’re Going to Be Friends. That was just so much like a Wiggles song. It’s beautiful and Tsehey and Simon sang it, and ah, it was great mate.

HAPPY: Yeah, that’s amazing. It’s crazy, especially with the AC/DC one, how such a heavy song can sound so good on the piano as well. 

ANTHONY: Yeah when you think about that, like playing those keys on the piano [laughs], it’s totally different than Angus playing it.

HAPPY: It’s such a funny vision, hey? [laughs]

ANTHONY: [laughs] It’s great. We also did James Brown’s Get on the Good Foot. And that was Tsehey and Johnny doing a duet on that. And I don’t think any other Wiggle in the past could have sung that. Because these guys grew up with funk and hip hop music and it’s just natural to them.

HAPPY: Yeahhh, true. 

ANTHONY: I really enjoyed that. We played all the music on it and that again was an education. You know, trying to play a James Brown song was really a challenge. 

HAPPY: Are you allowed to say if you’ll be playing any of the covers at the Wiggles reunion shows? 

ANTHONY: Yeah, we’re learning… What I mean by learning is we try to remember it and play it. We’re going to do Pub Feed when we get to Sydney, but I spoke to the Lime Cordiale, and the boys wanted to come and drive the Big Red Car across the stage during the show. 

Jeff I'm A Cow

HAPPY: [laughs] that’s so fun.

ANTHONY: Yeah, so I reckon we should do Apple Crumble with those guys singing. 

HAPPY: Nice, I’m keen to see that happen. But that’s all I’ve got for you, thanks so much for taking the time to chat, Anthony. 

ANTHONY: Good on you, mate. Nice talking to you.

HAPPY: Yeah, it was an absolute pleasure chatting to you.

ANTHONY: See ya mate

HAPPY: Bye!

The Sydney leg of The OG Wiggles Reunion Tour is taking place at Qudos Bank Arena tomorrow night. You can grab tickets for the show here.

The Wiggles’ new compilation cover album, ReWiggled is out now, available on all streaming platforms. Get a taste of the album below.

Photos supplied.

Interview by Lochie Schuster.