It wasn’t all that long ago that I first had the chance to catch up with Steve Merry, shredder extraordinaire for demonic blues duo The Fumes.
When we last spoke he was looking forward to a few weeks off between tours, spending some time with his young family and doing some landscaping work for a Japanese man who resembled a certain character from The Karate Kid.
Due to technical problems with that call, I also spent the whole interview sounding like I was talking from the bottom of a fish tank.
Two months down the track, and Steve is right in the middle of another regional rock-fest. I’m still having technical problems, this time of an entirely different nature, but I won’t realise that until it’s far too late to do anything about it.
We start to discuss the new tour, and Steve’s eagerness to revisit some of the regional venues The Fumes have covered in tours past. He tells me about a show they did in Maitland “the other week. People were hanging from the rafters, so that was a first I think. We sold out a venue in WA too, so that was impressive. We’ve had a pretty good response all round so far.”
With a tour schedule that rivals the most ambitious U2 world tours, The Fumes can end up spending quite some time away from family and friends while they tear around outback Australia in a rented van. Rather than spending this whole tour away from his young family, Steve tells me had a chance to give them a taste of the rock star lifestyle recently.
“I brought the wife and daughter on tour with me for a while. We had a good chance to spend some time together down in Melbourne. There were a couple of times, wakin’ up at five in the morning and getting in the car to drive for hours. I think they’re over the whole touring thing. They don’t want to come on tour anymore.”
Also along for the ride are indie darlings The Protectors. Steve says “some bands you tour with can be really stuck up, have their heads up their own asses” and I have to wonder whether he means the Sydney locals he’s been spending so much intimate time with lately. “Nah, they’re a really good bunch of blokes, good fun to be on the road with” he counters reassuringly.
The Fumes are booked to play the Coaster Festival in September. It’s an event that Steve admits to knowing little about. When I mention that GZA/The Genius is headlining, he asks “Is he the guy with the lisp?” before realising “he was in Coffee & Cigarettes wasn’t he? With Bill Murray?” I can’t say I blame a rock-infused guitar god for not knowing that much about US rap music.
As for what’s on the cards in the meantime, Steve says “we’re touring again in July and August. I think we’ll be on the road for the next year or so now. We’ll be writing some new material, playin’ around with some new tracks too.”
At this point, I decide to turn to my Dictaphone and see how long I’ve been talking Steve’s ear off. It’s then that I realise the damn thing hasn’t been recording anything we’ve been saying.
“Ah that’s alright. You can just make some stuff up if you want” he says. I can almost see him shrugging his shoulders. I figure I better get on to a computer immediately to try and write down every little thing I can remember, but before I do I have to ask Steve about that Japanese landscaper.
“I’m still workin’ with Mr Miyagi when I get the chance” he says between laughs. “He hasn’t pulled out the opium pipe yet.”
That one, at least, you can quote him on.