Interview:
Rocket Science

OK - So You're Rocket Science? That DOES Impress Me Very Much, Actually

Every now and again, an album comes along and pummels you in the face so hard that, no matter how hard you try, it is impossible to just play the odd track from it - and you end up playing the whole damn thing from start to finish every time. You may even have tried a different approach, by choosing random select on your CD player and hoping that chance will quell this addiction...but alas, you STILL end up listening to the whole thing. Well, Rocket Science have achieved just that with their remarkable "Contact High" album. It's a rocking, rollicking rollercoaster of a record that only just missed out on a "10" rating in our albums' reviews section this month because Nick only thought it was a "brilliant" album, as opposed to my belief that it is a "brilliantly brilliant" one. So I was delighted that the band's bassist extraordinaire, Dave Gray was on hand to answer some questions on Aussie music, life on the road and...er...Toby Mangel?

AD: "Contact High" is a fantastic album - one of the best I have heard in some time in fact - but how come it's taken three years since the release of "Welcome Aboard the 3C-10" to see the light of day?

DG: We recorded 3C10 in late 98 but it didnt come out until 2000 (Australia only- its still not out in the UK yet). We recorded Contact High in mid 2001 and it was released in Australia in February last year. We shopped around for a UK licensing deal, which we signed earlier this year. In fact we are focusing attention on the next recording project, which is exciting. It just takes a long time for these things to happen. This is why I baulk at the idea of jumping on bandwagons (except the nu-rock/Ayers Rock bandwagon that is). Just to be safe, Im keeping my funk metal electro dance grunge outfit under wraps, in anticipation of the demise of rock by numbers. What? No kidding? Say it aint so. Kit has just informed me its already happened and Ive missed the boat- again. Damn it. Oh well, maybe next week.

AD: Australia seems to have a fresh and burgeoning music scene of late, with bands like yourselves, the Vines and the D4 to name but a few. I remember when Men At Work were the only ones! What do you think has been the cause of this explosion?

DG: There is no explosion at all, its just that you have been made aware of the existence of multiple bands from the same region at the same time. For every great band youve heard of, there are 100 you havent (well maybe 10. No Im sure 100 is closer), and that has nothing to do with geography- its about fashion and timing. Of course inspiration ebbs and flows, and different regions and eras have their glory days and low points, but for the most part a movement is about marketing by brand association. Right now, timing and fashion is kind to us. I guess high-energy pub-rock has been a staple of the Australian musical diet for years and years. Its just that the world at large happens to be searching for organic and unleashed electrified music that is a tradition in Australia. New Zealand and Australia, especially Melbourne (our home town) produces world class and innovative music in diverse forms that you will never hear because of minimal self-promotion and lack of industry support, not lack of inspiration. I guess many places in the world could claim the same state of affairs. Id like the next media constructed movement to be called Nu Interesting.
Let's not forget that Australia has it's fair share of godawful bands, some of which I'm sure you'll be hearing from soon.

AD: How important is it to you that you have a hand in the production of your albums?

DG: Essential. We all have strong ideas about the kind of music we want to make, and therefore are required to oversee the creative process to completion. Having said that, its not like we are control freaks. I want to create music that I would like to listen to. I feel compelled to be involved in all creative areas of our music. To use Romans expression, one needs ownership of the process to feel involved in it.

AD: "Being Followed" has been voted as the best single of the year so far in the reviews section of our forthcoming issue. What's the story behind the song, is it autobiographical? Was one of you being stalked? I was intrigued by the line "He only talks in rhyme" which put me in mind of a comic book film.

DG: Roman wrote it. Spelling out the meaning of lyrics is like telling someone that Norman Bates impersonates and dresses as his long-dead mother and keeps her corpse in the cellar- giving the game away spoils it for the viewer/listener. Apologies to readers who may have not yet seen Psycho, I just had to make a point. I have my own interpretation of Being Followed. I see this song as both metaphorical and autobiographical, but I also see that it could be relevant to anyone- but Im not going to say in what way.

AD: I think my favourite description I've read of your band is that you "sound like the Hives being run over by a truckload of Small Faces". How would YOU describe your sound?

DG: I prefer more fun than a barrel of monkeys rolling down Mt Vesuvius.

AD: I came to Australia ten years ago for a holiday, and I loved the place. Everyone was really friendly - except the taxi drivers! Why are your cabbies such miserable bastards?

DG: Id be a miserable bastard too if I were a cabbie in Australia. We have miserable bastards in all walks of life, you just have to work a crappy job (or be holed up in a cab) to find them.

AD: Rolling Stone magazine called you "the best live band in the world". That must have felt good. In what way ARE you the best live band in the world?

DG: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Its a nice feeling when people enjoy your work.

AD: If Kylie Minogue approached you and asked you to do a single with her, what would your response be?

DG: What is the onomatopoeia for drool? As long as I could pick the song and she didnt sing, Id be into the idea.
Id like to take this opportunity to introduce a new segment: Neighbours Trivia With Rocket Science. Fact #1: Cast your mind back to the Neighbours' cast of the late eighties. Our assistant on Contact High played Joe Mangles ten year old son, Toby.

AD: You recently completed a tour of the UK and will shortly be embarking on another. What are the best and worst things about touring, and what do you miss most about home?

DG: The best thing about touring is being on stage, the second best thing about touring is discovering a new place and having the time to go exploring. The worst thing by far is spending prolonged periods of time away from my partner. Other bad things about touring are the cabin fever, the endless checking in and checking out, and the general blah blah blah blah of it all.

AD: What made you decide to learn to play the theremin and incorporate it into your music? I'm jealous...

DG: Other than sheepishly prodding and poking at it from time to time, I stay well clear of it. To this day I still get a kick out of watching Roman play it. Romans the guy to ask with regard to his motives, but to me it seems self evident why one would play it and incorporate it into one's music.
No need to be jealous, all you need is a power point and body capacitance however Clara Rockmore and Leon Theremin would surely dispute this assessment.

AD: What's your ultimate ambition for Rocket Science?

DG: Simply to have the opportunity to continue enjoy making the kind of music that I want to make with the people I choose to make it with. To evolve as a band creatively. World domination isnt really part of my plan.

AD: Anything else you'd like to talk about?

DG: Not really, just thanks for caring.


and how could we NOT care? Anybody who hears Rocket Science's work of magnificence just cannot fail to be impressed. Even Shania Twain, whose Godawful song I borrowed the heading of this article from. It's just a pity that the Hives beat them to the album title "Your New Favourite Band" - go on, have a guess who mine is?

"Contact High" is out now and if you don't go and buy it, I'm going to come round your house and pull your nose until you look like Barry Manilow.

Interview and transcript by Tone E

 

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