INTERVIEW: Paul McDermott (AUS), April 2013

A bit like the Patience Hodgson interview, this was a challenge insofar as I had to interview someone very well known for one thing about something else. I really enjoyed that aspect of it, however – Paul was a wonderful guy to interview. He’s someone that I grew up watching, so it was borderline surreal to be able to speak one-on-one with someone I’d come to love and respect over fifteen years. Another feature where I genuinely think it’s one of the better ones I’ve done.

– DJY, October 2014


If there’s two things you can instantly remember about Paul McDermott – his ultimate distinguishing features, if you will – it’s that he’s one of Australia’s all-time great funnymen and he’s got a tremendous set of pipes. After roughly thirty years of focusing primarily on the former, McDermott’s new stage show, simply titled Paul Sings, brings attention to the latter in its first proper outing. For the first time ever, Paul has put together a show of all-original material, ranging from the confessional “Bottle” to the love-lorn “Slow Ride Home.” With all of this in mind, one would think that singing had been a part of McDermott’s life from the very beginning. He is, however, quick to point out that it was never really a part of his life until he formed the infamous Doug Anthony All-Stars alongside Tim Ferguson and Richard Fidler.

“I’ve always sung to myself,” he says, on the line from Melbourne in the middle of a busy week at the Comedy Festival. “As a kid, I remember just singing to myself and singing at church with my mother. There was nothing at school, though – I wasn’t part of the choir, I never learned an instrument. I didn’t really start singing publicly until I joined up with the All-Stars, and we started busking. I never thought singing as a career was a reality in any way, so it was quite a weird set of circumstances that lead to it.”

The rest, as they say, is history. After 10 years with the All-Stars, McDermott moved onto hosting Good News Week in both its original 90s run and its 2000s revival; as well as Triple J breakfast hosting alongside longtime collaborator Mikey Robins. He formed GUD alongside notable Australian musicians Mick Moriaty (The Gadflys) and Cameron Bruce (Paul Kelly, Washington, Club Luna Band); who had a substantial run at festivals and the like throughout the first half of the 2000s. On the ABC, he also hosted The Sideshow, a variety/cabaret program which ran for one season in 2007 before unfortunately being cancelled. One thing that did come from The Sideshow of particular note was a slab of original songs, written and performed by McDermott near the end of the episode. With this in mind, it’s easy to imagine the daunting task of putting together the setlist for these shows, narrowing down a myriad of material over the years down to just 90 minutes’ worth.

“It’s been an interest process,” he admits. “With this show, we’ve just been trying to narrow it down to the sweet songs. We used to do this thing in the All-Stars when about three-quarters of the way through the show, we’d do a song like “[Heard It Through the] Grapevine,” “Throw Your Arms Around Me” or “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” They were always used as a counterpoint to the more visceral, grotesque comedy that we were doing. They affected people in a different way. This show is like a collection of those ideas, but they’re all original songs – songs that came from the end of The Sideshow, songs that were occasionally put in Good News Week or GNW Night Lite, or even songs that were in the [Comedy Festival] Debates. It’s taken us awhile to collect them, and we’ve only really found about half of them!”

Given that Paul Sings is a notably more sincere and – dare it be said – “serious” show in comparison to previous McDermott productions, the question must be asked: Is it difficult for people to keep a straight face at a comedy festival show? “The reaction has been quite phenomenal, really,” says Paul in response. “The reaction to the songs has been great. I do get to chat a bit with the audience between the songs – I guess that could be considered comedy. I think we strike a good balance, overall. People have been very complimentary about this show, which is really nice.”

Despite the title of Paul Sings, McDermott is also very quick to point out that he’s definitely not alone on this venture. Joining him will be a four-piece backing band, of whom he cannot speak high enough praises. On bass is Thirsty Merc alumni Phil Stack, who Paul describes as “the missing piece – his vocals are just perfect, and he has such great ideas.” On drums is Evan Mannell (“I’ve been calling him the Bison – he hits those skins like he hates them!”); and the two are joined by guitarist Patch Brown (“I don’t know why he isn’t the biggest thing in the world yet – he’s a superstar!”) and keyboard/accordion player Stu Hunter (“He’s done such wonderful things with these arrangements, what a brilliant musician!”).

There’s an overwhelming sense of pride in McDermott’s tone when he discusses how Paul Sings has come together – it’s already received rave reviews at the Fringe in Paul’s hometown of Adelaide, as well as the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. In two weeks, the show will come to the Sydney Comedy Festival for two nights only, at The Concourse in Chatswood and the Enmore Theatre in Newtown. McDermott himself is particularly fond of the latter – “Oh, I haven’t played there in a thousand years!” he reminisces. “What a beautiful venue. We can’t wait to come and play.”

Oh, one last thing, Paul: Any chance of an encore of “I Fuck Dogs”?

“People are ALWAYS after that particular classic,” he says with a laugh.

INTERVIEW: Andy Rourke (UK), February 2010

At this point, I don’t think I had ever been as nervous about doing an interview as I was about speaking with Andy. The Smiths were a huge part of my teens, like most sad fucks around my age. They’ve transcended, that’s for sure. This was my chance to get an insight into one of my all-time favourite bands from a unique, first-hand perspective. Andy was super-cool and very happy to talk about things from back in the day; although I made sure to focus on his more recent efforts as well. So enjoy my fangirl freakout. Maybe you’ll freak out yourself.

– DJY, October 2014


“If you can feel some heat coming through the line,” says Andy Rourke on the line from New York, “that’s me blushing!” He sounds simply chuffed, and deservedly so. Some crazy fan of his previous band, The Smiths, is on the line singing his praises for both his fantastic bass playing and for being a part of one of what many describe as one of the all-time great bands. (He may well have written this article, but that’s neither here nor there.) With hits like “How Soon is Now?”, “This Charming Man” and “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” – just to name a few – the band helped redefine a sound for indie British rock music. Though the band themselves are long gone, its members remain active. Rourke, in particular, has been spending the past few years working as a DJ.

“I started out about seven years ago,” he says on the origins of working behind the decks. “A friend of mine who played in Spiral Carpets had a night in Manchester. He had guest DJs each night, and he asked me to do a set. I told him ‘Nah! I don’t DJ, I can’t DJ’ and that. But he gave me a quick lesson – y’know, “here’s your gear, here’s the faders and off y’go’.” And this was deemed a success? “It went really well and the crowd liked it,” he notes enthusiastically. “I was on a real adrenalin buzz afterwards, that didn’t come down for about fifteen minutes. So I got an agent and started doing more and more DJing. I’ve been around the world a few times doing it.”

“I like it, y’know,” Rourke continues, casually. “It’s a different medium, but it’s a nice way to meet your audience. A lot of young people turn up to the shows, lot of people who never got to see The Smiths live.” Indeed, fans of the band will know of the tension and bad blood between most of the former band members – particularly drummer Mike Joyce, who infamously filed a lawsuit against vocalist Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr for allegedly taking the lion’s share of the band’s royalties. Things have cooled substantially between Rourke and Marr, at least. In fact, Marr, now playing guitar for UK band The Cribs, was hoping to catch up with Andy when the two (separately) visit Australia – Marr with The Cribs and Rourke DJing for the newly launched Club NME Australia nights.

“I got an email from him just yesterday or the day before”, says Rourke on his former bandmate. “I think he’d heard on the grapevine that I was going to be in Australia and he was just checking what date I was going to be there. Unfortunately, it was about a week before I arrive, which is a shame.” In spite of this, the two still see one another on an intermittent basis. “I saw him two weeks ago in New York,” continues Andy. “We played a gig, and a month before we’d played another one. But yeah, I see a lot of Johnny, considering I live in New York and he lives in Manchester.”

Musically, Rourke has been fairly casual in his recent band appearances. There’s one project, however, that’s finally coming into the limelight which Andy has been at work on for quite some time. It’s entitled Freebass – a collaboration with two other bassists [Joy Division/New Order’s Peter Hook and Stone Roses/Primal Scream’s Mani Mounfield] to create a very interesting triple bass guitar sound. “We’re nearly there!” promises Rourke in regards to the long-awaited project. “I was supposed to go back two weeks ago, but I was ill. We’re doing the final mixes of the EP and the album. We haven’t shopped it around to the labels yet, but we’re getting plenty of offers.”

He remains somewhat tight-lipped on the actual sound of Freebass, but one can rest assured that if Rourke is a part of a musical sound, it’s going to be something that stands out, embossing itself with relatively little fuss. The sound of The Smiths, of course is something that’s easily recognisable to most music fans. Marr’s “jangle” guitar sound and Morrissey’s wailing vocals have particularly been influential to everyone from R.E.M. to Jeff Buckley. When questioned about the band’s more recent influence, however, Andy seems determined to tread lightly.

“There’s some, but I wouldn’t really like to name any,” he comments. “It might be assuming. But yeah, there’s definitely a few where you can hear different bits and pieces. “I think today, bands are a little bit more guarded, and won’t make anything that’s quite so obvious. But you definitely hear some elements like guitar, or bass, or even Morrissey’s voice or lyrics. I think, over the years, we’ve been quite an influence.”

Coming from any other musician, such a statement may come across as exceedingly arrogant. It’s difficult to fault his sentiment, however – simply take a listen to any of the band’s four albums, and you will find an unmistakable sound. Rourke, too, had a very particular sound to his bass playing. All it takes is one listen to Meat is Murder’s “Rusholme Ruffians” or the self-titled’s “This Charming Man” to hear the thick, picked out and heavily toned sound that became Rourke’s signature sound. He insists, however, that it was never an attempt to sound distinguishable. Rather, it was simply a matter of being heard.

“I liked playing funk and I liked the sound of it,” he says, “but I hated the look of the slap bass player – if I played it with my fingers, especially in rehearsals, you couldn’t hear it. It’d sound more like a rumble. So I started playing with the plectrum so I could hear myself in rehearsals.” From that point – creating a sound out of necessity – it became something that Andy felt comfortable to work around and experiment with. “Once you’ve learned it like that,” he comments, “it starts defining the sound and that’s what you’re left with. It wasn’t really something where I was like ‘I want this’ or anything. People talk about it a lot, though.”

We find the forty-six-year-old Andy Rourke in a surprisingly good place in a post-Smiths world. He is still open and happy to talk about his band’s work (“It’s something I’m proud of”, he notes), and continues to see the world in his own little way. He appears to have found a niche talent of his in DJing, and he can’t wait to come to Australia and get the hipsters dancing to a variety of tunes.

“My first love is playing bass, and it always will be,” he says emphatically. “But I don’t see myself lessening the importance of the DJing. Unless there’s public demand for me to give it up, y’know.” He can’t help himself for a little self-reference, wise-cracking: “‘Hang the DJ!’”