Interviews

We chat to 60s scuzz rock pioneers The Sonics about the Hoodoo Gurus, their first LP in 40 years and the beauty of Saxophone

Sitting atop the fuzziest peaks of the garage pantheon, The Sonics were one of the first to pioneer the scuzzed-out guitar sounds of ‘60s rock.  The group’s raw rocking influence has since mutated into a host of genres.

The Sonics

With some of the most iconic groups from punk, post-punk, grunge and more recently neo-psych movements have tipped their hats to this garage powerhouse, we took the opportunity to catch up with The Sonics’ Rob Lind to talk about the continuation of the group’s underground sound.

HAPPY: You’ve played with some great Aussie bands. In 2012 you did a bunch of gigs with the Hoodoo Gurus and helping you out on this tour are Straight Arrows and Hits. Do you have a favourite Australian artist?

ROB: Aside from mega-monsters like AC/DC? Every once in a while there’s a band that will play with us that will stand out. Last time around we became really good friends with the Hoodoo Gurus. When we saw them we just looked at each and said: “these guys can play!” We liked them so much we asked Dave Faulkner if they had any songs they could give us for the new album and he said yeah.

So later we were in a Melbourne dressing room and midway through the Gurus’ set the door comes flying open. In comes Dave soaking wet. He says “we’re gonna do it live now if you want to hear it.” So we ran out and hid behind the drums and stage curtains while they did Be A Woman. Long story short it’s on the LP. If anyone in Australia talks to or sees Dave, tell him to come and visit us in the states.

HAPPY: Re-listening to some of the Sonics’ tracks I realised there’s this great saxophone solo on Have Love Will Travel. In more recent years brass instruments have tended to sit outside of the standard rock format, why do you think that is?

ROB: When you were in the North-West United States in the early 60s you couldn’t have a band without one! Before I started playing in bands I was a clarinet player. When I saw rock happening, I bought a cheap saxophone and that was it.

That’s why Have Love Will Travel has a sax part in it, you couldn’t play if you didn’t have one. Afterwards, sax just fell out of favour. Fortunately, with The Sonics I still have a job. Otherwise I’d be watching from home.

HAPPY: You released a new album, This is the Sonics last year. It was the first LP the group made together in over 40 years. How were you feeling after the release?

ROB: Real positive, it really came out well. The reason we started working on a new album was because we had gotten back together and didn’t want to feel like a “jukebox band.”

All our 60s records were self-produced, we had never had a producer. So it was exciting to get self-professed Sonics expert Jim Diamond to produce it. He knew all our songs and really wanted the fire and energy of those original albums. I think we got it. In the end, I’m really happy with it.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/270510066″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

HAPPY: So, while some of the original members are sitting out the tour, you’ve got former Kingsmen bassist Freddie Dennis and Link Wray drummer Dusty Watson. These are some pretty iconic ‘50s bands. When did you link up?

ROB: Freddie would have been with us the longest, six to seven years. We had another drummer before Dusty, but one day we were closing a festival and walking around after I saw this band playing in a field.

I heard the drummer and just thought “WOW! This guy can play!” We met afterwards and he gave me his card. I put it in my sock draw and when we needed a new drummer I just gave him a call. He’s great, he also played with Dick Dale for over 30 years.

Everybody in this band has expertise. Jerry Parypa has retired live so Jake Cavelier, frontman of The Lords of Altamont fills in. Guitarist Evan Foster is from a group called Boss Martians. There are no beginners here! I can tell you this, it works really well!

HAPPY: I read in an earlier interview that The Sonics were initially in it to meet “cute girls” but the band quickly grew into being something much more than that. What’s in it for you in 2016? What appeals to you the most?

ROB: The most appealing thing, the thing that keeps us going is the appreciation we get. We see it when people who know the songs are singing along [to] every word. I’ve thought of it as being like a battery in that it’s circular. We put this power out and we get it back. It’s just great to have that interplay.

Another thing is that I’ve been playing music my whole life. You know what? It’s fun! Maybe the most fun you can have without being caught up with the police…

You can catch The Sonics in town when they play Yours and Owls festival 1-2 October alongside Antwon, The Jezabels, DMA’s and heaps heaps more! Tickets are almost sold out. Get them here.

They are also hitting up the following venues in September:

Friday 23rd September:
Adelaide, The Gov
+ Subject S + Juliette Seizure & the Tremor-Dolls.

Saturday 24th September:
Melbourne, Max Watts
+ Straight Arrows & Thee Wylde Oscars.

Tuesday 27th September:
Perth, Rosemount Hotel
+ Thee Loose Hounds.

Thursday 29th September:
Brisbane, The Triffid
+ HITS.

Friday 30th September:
Sydney, Manning Bar
+ The Crusaders & The Pink Fits.