Interview by Kelly Koolstra-Aplin and feature written by Kylie Carns
Rock legend, iconic front man of Rose Tattoo and all round good guy, Gary “Angry” Anderson grew up in very humble beginnings with his grandparents in suburban Melbourne. Being surrounded by music and influenced by his uncle’s musical taste, Anderson had no choice but to be fascinated by the blues from a very young age. But where did it all begin? When did Anderson know he was going to be a musician?
“Fortunately for me my musical influences started when I was very very young and when I say musical influences, I mean real influences. I grew up for the first six years of my life in my Grandparents home and the youngest of the Anderson boys (to my biological father- Anderson) his younger brother Ivan, was a drummer at the time with a swing band and had an amazing collection of swing and jazz albums and this really really exciting music called ‘The Blues’. Apart from musicians, not a whole lot of people were aware of the blues so to speak. I was listening to voices that later on in my life, I recognised cause those days I didn’t know if they were black or white unless there was a photo of them on the (vinyl) cover, which I never really took much notice of to tell you the truth. In a lot of cases, I was listening to the piano players, the guitar players, singers and trumpet players whatever, cause the other thing too, that apart from being a drummer my uncle played brass. He played trumpet and sax but having said that, I grew up with those influences”
And so it began; Anderson’s fascination for music.
Moving to Pascoe Vale a few years later getting in to Coburg Technical College, he discovered the era of Rock N Roll.
“Rock N Roll had arrived” recalls Anderson “I was 12 or 13 years old, going to Coburg Tech all boys school and there were two other nerdy kids that were both players and we all had this great love of music and it was very exciting times because it was those wonderful days of Rockabilly –when county music grew up so to speak and those wonderful blues influences came into play and there were all these amazing white guys singing and playing black people’s music or adapting it to what became rockabilly and rock n roll. So I was there! Johnny on the Spot!” Anderson laughs.
Being influenced by the ‘best music ever recorded’, saw Anderson make a decision between the love of motorbikes and music. Knowing he always wanted to sing, especially the blues, saw Anderson decide that being Marlon Brando was not the direction he wanted to go back then, and joined a ‘proper’ band; The Cobweb or The Webs as they later changed to. This saw Anderson make a conscious decision to follow a career in music. Years later, Anderson reignited his passion for motorcycles but saying that, they were always one of the loves of his life. The greatest love however, was what his life become, and that was singing in a band.
Starting Rose Tattoo saw many influences merge into their iconic style. Many people likened the Tatts in those early days to The Rolling Stones, which was accurate to a certain degree. Anderson’s favourite band and influence “The Faces” saw him bring that flavour and style to the band’s sounds but once again, a blues based rock n roll band.
“The great thing about the Tatts and I’m very proud to say it, particularly Peter Wells and Ian Rilen, were talented enough to be able to steer the band in a very original direction and even though we draw heavily on the rock n roll era- the Chuck Berry’s, the 50’s era, there is an authenticity about Rose Tattoo that still continues today that pays homage to those early rock n roll artists”
Naturally, Rose Tattoo has seen a change in line-ups over the years like most bands have seen with the same longevity in the industry. The current line up though, whilst different in musicality, the undertone still remains, and they have always stayed true to their roots.
“Ive heard tapes of this band live, I have seen live footage, particularly from Europe over the last couple of tours, but the thing that excites me, is we still have the real raw thing that the early line up had and we will always have, no matter which line up.” Anderson said.
Anderson choose this current line up cause he knew in his heart, giving them the chance, they could really perform. He would be so very proud of them living up to the legacy that is Rose Tattoo, but carry on with its own stamp whilst paying homage to the great original line up. Mark Evans and Anderson had known each other for years so was a natural progression for Evans to join the band. Anderson recalls meeting Bob Spencer when he was playing guitar in the band Finch, when Spencer was still in school. Reminiscing, Anderson mentions that Spencer would not have been more than 16 or 17 years old.
“I was very excited about his guitar playing and I knew he was going to be one of the greatest guitar players that the country would ever produce. It was a magical thing you could just feel, so Bobby and I have stayed friends after all these years”
Having a short list of people that he wants to play with at some stage in his life, Anderson found it easy to form the current line up. Spencer has left a mark on Anderson, even calling him an alien and not from this world, but Anderson knew that Spencer had to be apart of the current line up and it was a no brainer for him to join the crew.
“I remember seeing him perform with The Angels, and I thought “fuck me’. Jesus, what a force to be reckoned with’. Rose Tattoo has given him the chance to go full cycle. He can be as bombastic as he wants to be. He can be as brutal as he wants to be. He can be as tasteful as he wants to be, and he’s all those things”
Needing a solid base behind them, Anderson knew that a great bass player and solid drummer were necessary to keep the foundation, and once you had this, any guitarist could ride on it and keep it up all night. So naturally Evans was an easy choice. He was one of the few that could actually step up and do the job.
Then there is Dai Pritchard who Anderson calls the ‘Consummate Player’. Pritchard is one of the most articulate, but one of the most brutally honest guitar players that he has ever come across. Being with the band since 2007, Pritchard is definitely now part of the bands furniture and performs night after night, his superb slide guitar honouring the true Tatt’s sound.
Touring heavily over the years, Rose Tattoo have performed at some of the biggest festivals and toured with many iconic artists over the decades. But it seemed bitter sweet. Gaining a huge following overseas, did see them concentrating on touring in Europe instead of their home country in Australia.
“The very thing that made us unpopular here (Australia), though we were very popular with our hardcore audience, but the very thing that kept us from achieving radio support, in other words commercial success, the very thing that kept us in the outlaw status, which suited us very well I might add in Australia, elevated us very quickly. In 1980, when we first went to England, we had only been in London a week and we started go out and found our way around London and it was surprising to us (we hadn’t even started playing yet, we were still rehearsing), but I remember once there were three of us walking down the street in one of the better parts of town, we were going shopping for shoes and boots and fucking whatever and this bunch of kids crossed the road and said “Rose Tattoo?” and we went “yeah” and they said “Man, cant believe you’re here.” We were taking photos and signing autographs and stuff and they left. We looked at each other and said “are you fucking kidding? Someone actually recognised us in the streets of London. “
The band has always been bigger in its ability to pull crowds in Britain and particularly in Europe now, than it ever has done in Australia. Europe has always embraced The Tatts like their own sons. It could be the fact that Europe has always shown interest in bands that take things to the extreme. With this following and welcomed fame in Europe and the United Kingdom, Rose Tattoo gained followers and became influences themselves. Rose Tattoo are consistently listed as a band that have influenced others such as Dee Snider, Guns and Roses through to Motley Crue; an honour that Anderson is grateful for (even Tommy Lee listing Anderson as the influence behind all of his ink work)
“Nikki and Tommy Lee saw Rose Tatts supporting (I think) Aerosmith and it was like ‘ that’s it’ and apparently they went off and after seeing Peter and I with full arms, got themselves tattooed. And now they are more tattoos than all of us together”
Anderson is so humbled that The Tatt’s legacy has reached other iconic musicians. There is no denying that Anderson is thrilled when such performers, like Guns n Roses and Motley Crue list them as music influences. Even more humbling is to be placed in the same calibre as Iron Maiden and Motorhead. Australian’s Airbourne have showed much love for The Tatts over the years, but Anderson thinks they are very biased
“Take into consideration that there is a certain bias here. We had become great mates over the years and in those early days when they were first touring in Europe and starting out, I remember quite a few backstage conversations when we all had a just a little bit much to drink, but I would say, “what you’ve got, resonates here. Whatever you do, don’t fucking stop! Keep coming back cause I can tell already you will build on this very quickly . You are one of the few bands from Australia that I have seen go over there and I knew that they had what the Europeans wanted. They have something”
But what’s on the horizon for Rose Tattoo now? 40 years on since the release of their first self titled album and single release “Rock N Roll Outlaw”, they have toured extensively across the globe with their 40th Anniversary show. And now they are at it again with commencing their “Still Never Too Loud” tour with the Hard-Ons across Australia and Europe, which will allow fans to relive the magic that is Rose Tattoo live. But what is more exciting is that Rose Tattoo are going back to the recording studio. For those newer fans, that only know the Tatts as the current line up, they will soon be able to hear re-recordings of Tatts originals, played by the current members, something that Anderson is excited about
“It will be a recorded history of these songs with this current line up. We will be adding additional tracks that could have, arguably, should have made the cut, but in the early days left off so we are going to record a few extra tracks.”
Gary “Angry” Anderson (called Angry Ant from a seller in “exotics” and later shortened to Angry) is still a very humble artist. Recalling his life over the years and touring in their heyday compared to now, Anderson notes the difference now his is sobriety. The industry has changed, faces have changed, but the one thing that has sheltered him and protected him over these years, even in his darkest days of abuse has been his music.
Rose Tattoo’s – ‘Never Too Loud’, released in 1997 through Repertoire Records Germany, was a ‘Popumentary’ Series, spanning the band’s career at the time. This 37-track collection contained smash hits, from ‘Rock’n’Roll Outlaw’, ‘Nice Boys (Don’t Play Rock’n’Roll)’, ‘The Butcher & Fast Eddie’ to ‘Bad Boy For Love’, ‘AssaultAnd Battery’ or ‘Rock’ n ‘Roll Is King’ ‘to’ We Can not Be Beaten ‘,’ Branded ‘ and ‘Scarred For Life’. Featuring highlights from their rich collection, it also included an encore with four exclusive tracks from BBC live recordings. Selected tracks
were produced by Tony Wilson & Vanda & Young. Now, 22 years on, Rose Tattoo are proud to announce their ‘Still Never To Loud’, tour heading out nationally in March, April and May with the hybrid blend of bubble-gum, metal, punk and psychedelia – Hard-Ons. Thirty-five years on, Hard-Ons have amassing an unprecedented and never-to-be-paralleled seventeen consecutive number one releases on the Australian alternative charts including, teaming up with Henry Rollins on a cover version of AC/DC’s massive hit, ‘Let There Be Rock’. Their cult followings extend into Europe and the UK, theindefatigable Hard-Ons present a wild, loud and action-packed live show!
Strap yourself in for an explosive night of unadulterated rock and punk power pop to heighten the senses on the ‘Still Never Too Loud’ shows! 2019 is shaping up like 2018 when bad boy, Angry Anderson and his recruits extensively covered Europe, UK and Australia. Considered some of the best in the business and comprising legendary bass player extraordinaire, Mark Evans of AC/DC fame, iconic guitarist Bob Spencer – The Angels & Skyhooks and, Pete Well’s endorsed, “unbelievably talented maestro of rock mayhem”, Dai Pritchard on slide, Rose Tattoo hit the high seas on the Monsters Of Rock Cruise out of Miami in late February, head straight into the recording studios in March, and kick off the ‘Still Never Too Loud’ run of dates.
-TATTS FOREVER FOREVER TATTS-
‘STILL NEVER TO LOUD’ Tour Dates
23 – Metro Sydney NSW
30 – Waves Wollongong NSW
5 – Doncaster Shoppingtown Hotel Doncaster VIC
6 – Chelsea Heights Hotel Chelsea Heights VIC
12- Adelaide, The Gov
13 – The Capitol Theatre Perth WA
26 – The Triffid Brisbane QLD
27 – Coolangatta Hotel Gold Coast QLD
3 – Ettalong Diggers Central Coast NSW
4 – Cambridge Hotel Newcastle NSW