Two knock-about blokes that just happen to be proficient with instruments and have a thirst for blusey rock and roll: that’s a fairly accurate description of Mildura duo Jackson Firebird. Despite playing together for approximately 16 years, the band has just released their debut album Cock Rockin’ on Friday, June 8, 2012 and are now in the midst of Paper Scissors Rock tour.
On the road headed towards a gig, drummer Dale Hudak pulled over and took the time to explain that, although Cock Rockin’ was slow to release, it was fairly quick to record.
“It’s been a long time coming… We’ve had an EP out since about 2007, but this one (Cock Rockin’) was actually recorded about two years ago up in the Adelaide hills”, Hudak recounts.
“It was a long journey, but really the actual recording process itself in the studio was probably done in a week and a half. We’d just go in for a weekend and then record three songs and then go back to everyday life and do a bit of touring and a bit of gigging, and then go back three months later and do another weekend and then slowly piece it together that way.”
“We thought we’d just release it and sell it at gigs and stuff, but before we did that we just shopped it around a bit and a few ears pricked up…we ended up getting signed with Warner.”
It’s hardly surprising that ears pricked up when Cock Rockin’ made the rounds. The very first sound on the record is Hudak’s voice yelling ‘Go Motherfucker’, encouraging fellow Jackson Firebird Brendan Harvey to kick out the jams. In fact, the opening title track lets loose with a barrage of ‘motherfuckers’ and quickly establishes Jackson Firebird’s distinctive attitude that is equal parts levity and grittiness.
“That’s kind of the way we’ve always started the song. Harv always tends to piss-fart around a bit in terms of tuning his guitar and stuff. When we’re rehearsing and jamming…I just kind of look at him and go, ‘Go motherfucker, just go”, and so it kind of became a bit of a joke; that’s how we start the song in a live set.”
“So when it came time to record and trying to record in the studio, I clicked it through a few times (using drum sticks) and I was like, ‘This doesn’t work’…so that ‘go motherfucker’ is actually me sitting at the drum kit just before we start playing.”
“In terms to all of the other ‘motherfuckers’, I think that was a song I ended up writing at about … it was kind of an all-nighter job where I went to bed at about 11 o’clock and had a riff in my head. Then some melody or some lines came up and I think probably one of them, because I was half delirious, was: ‘this motherfucker ain’t stopping tonight’.”
“So I just wrote that down, probably with the intention to change it, maybe make it a little more PC or something, but in the end it just works with the song and that’s pretty much the vibe we wanted. It rolls off the tongue quite nicely, I think maybe I tried to find a replacement for it, but nothing works as well as ‘motherfucker’”, Hudak affirms.
Even before the release for their first LP Jackson Firebird had earned a reputation as an exciting live band, recently stealing the show at this year’s Aussie BBQ in London behind the sheer grunt of their music.
One of the biggest hurdles for a band as rugged and intense as Jackson Firebird is trying to successfully emulate and transfer that live ferocity onto a studio record.
“We had no idea who we could get to record the album and the idea was…to find someone that can capture what we do on stage and put it onto an album”, he concedes.
“We got told about this guy called Mick Wordley, that he was a real live sound guru type of guy… We ended up bumping into him at…Fuse Festival in Adelaide and had a bit of chat to him, gave him an EP and two days later we’re talking on the phone and we ended up just going in from there.”
“He only uses tape, so he’s a bit old school in that kind of way. And he’s like, ‘Now get both you guys in the room…we’re gonna do it how it’s kinda’ done on stage’, and we tried to just nut it out from there.”
Under Wordley’s guidance, Jackson Firebird were able to capture the raw imperfections that give the duo’s music such rich character.
“We’d get through a take and me being anal and everything I’d say, ‘You know I think I missed a snare drum beat there or something’ and Mick would go, ‘Fuck off that was perfect’…and sure enough, a lot of times where I don’t think something’s perfect it kind of makes it perfect”, Hudak admits.
“I think having Mick Wordley onboard and having him there to tell us those things was quite important. If it had been up to me, at the end of the day I probably would be listening back to it going, ‘Well maybe that is a bit too polished and I should of stopped here as opposed to there’.”
Another unique element of Jackson Firebird’s music Wordley helped capture was the band’s peculiar but effective use of a bottle bin, which Hudak can often be seen beating the hell out of with his hands during live sets. For recording purposes, however, the bottle bin was replaced by a water jug for what might well be the very first ‘water jug solo’ in the history of Australian rock ‘n’ roll on the song Goin’ Out West.
“Mick Wordley had…those big water jugs. We ended up yanking one of those out that was empty and I played that a bit. It actually turned out pretty good too I thought. So we tried to keep it as recycle-y plastic-y as we could, and in the end you put a mic under anything and you can kind of get it to sound pretty cool if you slap it with your hands.”
The introduction of the bin lid as a permanent instrument was somewhat serendipitous thanks to a spontaneous intoxicated jam session where percussion instruments were in short supply.
“The bottle bin itself came from … we were pissed and it was at my mate’s bucks party when we were camping. I was there with Brendan and he had a guitar and the only things I could find were a bit of corrugated iron and a few old bins”, Hudak confesses.
“So while everyone was drinking around the campfire, we just kind of had a bit of a jam and I woke up with a shit load of bruises and the idea to put a microphone underneath some tubs when we got home.”
Goin’ Out West is actually a Tom Waits cover. With lyrics such as, ‘I don’t need no make up I got real scars’ and ‘I’m gonna drive all night, take some speed’, the song conjures up that outlaw attitude and spirited disruption that, although exuded by contemporary band’s such as Jackson Firebird, DZ Deathrays and Kingswood, seems to be largely absent from emerging Australian rock acts on an overall scale.
“That song kind of rang true to us you know because of those lines”, Hudak asserts.
“I don’t think you can feel like you’ve actually got to a point musically until you actually go and hit the road and sleep on people’s couches and live off hardly any food and just go and basically live off the sweat of going and playing gigs every weekend.”
Cock Rockin’ by Jackson Firebird is out now.
JACKSON FIREBIRD – PAPPER SCISSORS ROCK TOUR (With special guests River of Snakes)
Friday 8 June – The Patch, Wollongong, NSW
Saturday 9 June – The Vanguard, Newtown, NSW
Sunday 10 June – Great Northern, Newcastle, NSW
Monday 11 June – Brass Monkey, Cronulla, NSW
Thursday 14 June – Retreat Hotel, Brunswick, VIC *
Saturday 16 June – Bended Elbow, Geelong, VIC
www.oztix.com.au & Bended Elbow: (03) 5229 4477
Thursday 21 June – Retreat Hotel, Brunswick, VIC *
Friday 22 June – The Loft, Warrnambool, VIC
Thursday 28 June – Retreat Hotel, Brunswick, VIC *
Saturday 30 June – Settlers Tavern, Mildura, VIC **
* Mammoth Mammoth also appearing
** River of Snakes not appearing