2014 saw Australian rockers Jackson Firebird unleash a riot of distinct rock ‘n’ roll across Europe through debut album Cock Rockin’. Heftily acclaimed and greedily devoured, it quickly repeated the success already found by its storming tracks in the duo’s homeland. A year on and the pair of guitarist/vocalist Brendan Harvey and drummer/vocalist Dale Hudak has repeated the incitement with second full-length Shake The Breakdown. Not needing to be asked twice if we wanted to get back in touch with the guys to learn about the new release we thrust a host of questions at Dale with the following insight into Jackson Firebird, album, and studio antics.
Hi Dale, welcome back to The RingMaster Review
Last time we talked with you was after the European release of debut album Cock Rockin’ last year. Apart from the obvious being your new album Shake The Breakdown in the making and releasing, what have the months since also brought the way of Jackson Firebird?
Hey Pete, thanks for the great questions mate. Lately most interviews have been aimed squarely at Brendan’s sex change operation so this is refreshing. We recorded the new album late in 2014 so it’s been almost a year. We have been just itching to get it out there and tour the balls out of it. Other than an Aus tour earlier in the year and the odd show, we have had a quiet 2015. Personally I have learnt to throw together quite a delicious cheesy potato bake and mastered a recipe for a triple choc brownie. But somehow we have managed to find the time to jam our arses off and now just want to get out there and play!
Now the dust has fully settled on that first album, what are your thoughts looking back at its success outside of your homeland?
We started off jamming in the family bakery just as an excuse to get together with mates, make some noise and get drunk on a Tuesday night. We never considered success outside of our small town let alone out of the country. Success comes to me in the form of people wanting to come to our shows, stick around and party with us. That feeling of being able to hold a whole room or watching someone picked up and thrown about on a crowd while losing their shit makes us feel like we’ve done good. We saw a bit of that last time we were in Europe.
What kind of doors, if any, has it opened for the band?
I am now able to get the best table at any McDonalds restaurant in Mildura. So there’s that.
As we just said second album Shake The Breakdown has been recently uncaged. How did you approach its creation compared to Cock Rockin’?
We went into Cock Rockin as having a bunch of songs that we wanted to record so we could have something to sell at gigs and show the grandkids and stuff. We mostly produced it ourselves and recorded and paid for it in drips and drabs. Shake the Breakdown started with a trip over to Austin TX for SXSW in 2013 where we had a chance to record a few songs with legend producer Chris Frenchie Smith. He was totally on our wavelength and found the sound we were chasing so it made sense to go back and finish it off with him. Frenchie’s production was the big difference between Cock and Shake. He shoved us when we needed a push and pulled us when we needed a tug. He definitely got more out of us than if we were to do it by ourselves again. Talking about creative input, not about semen you dirty bugger.
If you had to nail down the major differences and the evolution between the two albums what would they be for you?
I think with Cock Rockin we managed to get a live sounding album that sounds bigger than just two people. With Shake the Breakdown it’s taken up a few notches but in a way that we can still achieve live with just the two of us. We still tried to keep our music simple stupid stripped back rocking but now it’s centered by a wall of noise. We probably got a bit more adventurous with the style of some of the songs on the new album. Not on purpose, just “Hudak: Harvey, I got a riff I think you should sing this one”. “Harvey: SCREAMS!!!!!”
Get Away is finished.
As the first album and as you just implied, Shake The Breakdown feels like its songs are a live encounter for ears but did you change anything in the recording approach this time around or where did you certainly evolve things?
Just like Cock Rockin we recorded every song on the new album with both of us belting it out in the same room as if we were playing live. All the rhythm guitar at least was laid down at the same time as the drums. Harvs was more than patient with my continual fuck ups but there were a few times he had to dodge a flying drum stick aimed at his head. We used a Moog synth to get some of the fat bass sounds and over dubbed geet leads and stuff but tried to keep the songs as live as possible.
There is more variety in the sound of Shake The Breakdown too, were there any specific inspirations which might attribute to the adventure at play?
We never really have anything particular in mind before writing a song other than it’s got to be fun and a challenge to play live. Riffs and melodies can come from anywhere at any time so my phone’s voice memo is choca block full of humming or stupid guitar voices or just singing. It’s all gold at the time, but when you revisit at jam it’s more what was I thinking? Wait, was I actually taking a shit during that one? The fact that I sing a few more songs on this album may attribute to the variety in sound. The writing process remained the same but my style of singing takes some of the songs in different directions.
I believe the first album consisted of songs which had been around a while in the Jackson Firebird armoury just waiting to be unleashed; how about with Shake The Breakdown, are these fresh from the pen encounters other than the covers of course?
The song Shake the Breakdown is actually one of the first songs we wrote together. We recorded a demo of it ages ago but it wasn’t until we got together with Frenchie that we considered giving the song a better go in the studio. It’s a song I play on the bottle bin and a permanent fixture to the JF set list so it was important to have on an album. All of the other songs are newbies.
As always the band’s humour runs wild across the release as the great sounds, particular stories which have inspired songs?
The Headache Mantra stemmed from my love of the show Monkey Magic. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s about an arrogant bad motherfucker monkey king who takes on heaven and wins. In short, the Buddha makes him follow around a ladyboy and kicks heaps of demon arse along the way. The headache mantra is the chant that makes Monkey’s head ring tighten. This made him yelp in a way not unlike what happens in the song. It’s hard to explain; watch it, 80s cheese in all its glory!
We mentioned the covers on the album. Your take on Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls was a treat but the version of the Shirley Ellis classic, The Clapping Song had the room in a riotous union, as indeed many others tracks to be fair. You did not seem to dissect and twist them about too majorly yet found a character to them which was wholly different. What was the idea behind firstly of choosing the pair and of how you approached them?
Fat Bottomed Girls was suggested by Frenchie when we had some time up our sleeves in the studio. We thought he was taking the piss but his vision was to totally under think the track. Queen made such a brilliant rock song and the lyrics are all a bit tongue in cheek so we humored Frenchie. Harvs was practically watching a YouTube tutorial on how to play the song while we were recording it. Frenchie was pummelling the Moog and jumping around like a man possessed and I was just cracking up as it went down. My biggest stress with the song was even attempting Freddie’s vocal. But I had the megaphone set up next to the drums so Frenchie asked me to lay down a guide vocal. That ended up being the vocal we used and the track was finished in half a day. I think it’s this rawness that gives our version its flavour.
The Clapping Song was a song Kmart used in their advertising for a good six months in Australia so it was hard not to hear it whenever the TV was on. It was stuck in my head on a daily basis so we jammed in it. Kmart to thank for that.
Is there any particular moment within Shake The Breakdown which has you especially smiling inside?
Mostly in Fat Bottomed Girls when Harvs was trying to nail the guitar break short solo bit. He got so pissed off that he just kind of sloppily slaps the strings randomly and Frenchie goes “perfect!” and we move on. Listening to the wrongness of that part makes me smile a bit inside.
You are already out there uncaging the album on stage? What is on the horizon live wise?
There is some pretty intensive touring on the near horizon before the end of the year, both in Australia and Europe. Not all of the dates have been confirmed yet so check out our website or Facebook for updates. We are playing a killer festival on the 3rd of Oct called Chopped Rod & Custom which is full of crazy old cars, rev heads and rock n roll. Drag racing all day can’t wait!
What is left in store for 2015 from Jackson Firebird?
Touring and more touring and playing our tits off touring and going to watch that new Star Wars movie.
Thanks again for sharing your time with us, any final thoughts you would like to leave on?
If you get a chance come and see us play we’ll have cracker of a time!
Oh and finally, there are a few great duos creating blood boiling rock ‘n’ roll right now, we mentioned a couple in our review of Shake The Breakdown. Are there any which ignite your personal flames of passion?
Yes!!!! The Fumes, The Black Keys (early days), Local H, The Mess Hall King of the North, and Royal Blood are all sick bands.
Read our review of Shake the Breakdown @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/jackson-firebird-shake-the-breakdown-2/
Pete RingMaster 04/10/2015
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