In recent years, we have seen a lot of reunions of bands who were big in the 70’s and 80’s. Few have been met with such frenzied anticipation and excitement as when this line-up of Aussie rock legends, The Angels, reformed last year. Such hype is hard to live up to. Although fans were thrilled by the announcement, there were sceptics who doubted that, after the passing of two decades, this iconic Australian pub rock band could recreate that magic once more. But, more than a year after that reformation, they are still packing out venues around the country and, arguably, sounding better than ever. You get the sense that all this time apart, and the series of events leading up to that celebrated reunion, have somehow added another dimension to their music.
Angels’ bass player, Chris Bailey, agrees. “I think we feel that too. It comes from the fact that we’ve all matured as people as well as musicians. You know, Buzz and I have been playing with Gangajang and have been playing with a lot of other different bands and different people and you kind of bring that experience back to The Angels with you and so, any time you play every song, you’re always looking for that something extra to put into it and you’ve got more ammunition to draw on just from your experience of different feels and different ideas you have in your head that we can now apply to Angels’ songs. We didn’t have that experience back in the ‘70’s. We were much younger and just hadn’t been around the block that much but I think what’s happening now is we’re bringing that experience and that maturity, with the extra excitement of being back together again so it makes every gig pretty special. Each time I play every song, it is kind of a celebration to be able to play and get the most out of the song. We feed off each other musically a lot more than we did when we were younger. Yeah, it just adds another dimension.”
There is certainly no doubting that the fans have remained loyal all this time. The crowds that cheered the band on 20 or 30 years ago are still there and still loving it! But they are now joined by a legion of new fans, enjoying an Angels gig for the first time.
“The level of commitment from the fans to this band is just unbelievable, quite humbling really, and it really stirs you.” says Chris. “That’s the thing. Every gig we do, it’s always been an Angels’ philosophy that we never do things half-arsed on stage. You can never goof off when you’re doing an Angels gig. You can never walk through it. You always have to deliver 100%. Because the fans, the audience, are kind of giving us 100% of themselves, it stirs us to give even more back. And back working with Doc again, he’s just brilliant on stage and so inspiring. It’s great.”
So, now that the band is back together again, and all is well, can we expect to hear some new songs from The Angels?
“Well, I would bloody hope so!” he laughs. “It’s kind of difficult because we’re all just so busy with individual things, you know. John and Rick have got the Brewster Brothers thing going and that’s pretty dear to their hearts. Doc, I think, is working on solo stuff. You know, he’s always got ideas for doing solo stuff and I think he’s sort of pushing to get into the theatre and a bit of different stuff and Buzz is just all over the place. He’s the Managing Director of a charity foundation called The Jimmy Little Foundation. It’s an organisation to raise funds for Indigenous people who need kidney and dialysis treatment. I’ve just been looking at Buzz’s schedule, actually, and it’s absolutely horrendous. He’s had about 3 days at home in the last 2 months because he spends all his time up in the Northern Territory and all the Indigenous areas, meeting with sponsors and Government people, all with the aim to raise money to provide dialysis treatment for Aboriginal people in communities where they have massive kidney problems and health problems and they have to drive thousands and thousands of miles out of their own communities for treatment. The Government should have been doing something about this years ago. I think, through his association with managing Jimmy Little, which took him out into a lot of those Indigenous communities, when he saw what was going on, he was just appalled and, so, he’s sort of in that position now and he’s running this big foundation with a big budget and doing his utmost to get dialysis machines and health treatment to Indigenous communities all over the country. It’s a huge job.”
So… those new songs? “We’ve talked about it time and time again but we just haven’t yet figured out time frames to be able to get together and be able to work up some new stuff. I think John and Rick have probably got quite a few songs floating around and I think Doc’s probably got a few but we just haven’t yet been able to figure out a plan where we can all get together and work them up. Certainly, the desire is there to do new material. It’s just flat out, you know. John and Rick are really busy with their Brewster Brothers and, you know, it’s really hard to say to people that everyone has to drop everything they’re doing because we’re going to do another record. We sort of can’t do that. What we have to do is say to each other ‘Well, let’s just keep thinking about it, keep talking about it and if anyone ever finds they’re going to have a week off here or there and be able, then we’ll get together and see what we can do’ but, as yet, that just hasn’t happened.”
OK then, apart from the songs, can we expect anything new from the band in the future? Chris hints that there could be some surprises in store but he is hesitant to give details. “We’ve got a couple of ideas that we’re toying with – BIG, BIG ideas! Nothing that I can announce at this point.”
Not even a little hint? “I wish I could tell you more. I hate to be a tease but, you know, it’s just that, I can’t really say anything about it until our management figure that it’s all in place and ready to go. It’s quite a different idea for Angels gigs and involves a lot more musicians. That’s about all I can say. We’d rather announce it when it’s all coming together and happening.”
Well, my curiosity is piqued now…. Chris seems quite happy about that. “Good. That’s the idea.” he responds, cheekily.
As Chris mentioned, both he and Buzz also play in another band, Gangajang, which was formed back in 1984. While we are waiting to hear some new songs from The Angels, is there anything in the pipeline for Gangajang? It has been a while since the last album.
“Funny you should ask.” he answers, enthusiastically. “We’re just talking about it at this very moment. We’re trying to work out logistics of being able to do a new one. We’re aiming to get in the studio around January. It’s just really hard with the Gang. We’re spread out all over the country and everyone’s so busy with their individual projects and it’s just really hard. Plus, we’ve got to slot it in between Angels as well so it’s a bit awkward. But, that’s the plan.”
Chris says that they have enough songs for an album. “At this stage, we’ve got about 15 new songs on the drawing board and there’s more coming in every day so we hope to have a pretty good range to choose from. We’ve got a little private website that we share between us and everyone’s putting up new songs and so we kind of listen to each other’s song ideas over the web and learn them as best we can so that we’re ready to go into the studio in January. We’ve just got to find some money.”
“When you don’t have a record company, it’s pretty hard so we’re actually toying with the idea of seeing if we can hook in some investors. David Bowie did it. He floated his company and sold shares. We’re not going to go that far but what we’re thinking is that, like a lot of artists do and film makers, that you try and hunt up 30 or 40 people to maybe throw in a couple of grand each. If we make a great record and it sells, everybody gets their money plus profit. If it doesn’t sell, it’s a tax deduction.” He laughs. “That’s kind of the way we’re looking at it at the moment. I’m laughing as I’m saying it (but) we’re half serious about it. If we can find 30 really rich people that need to lose a couple of grand because of their tax situation, that’s what we need. So, if you know any, please tell them to get in touch.”
Between a new album with Gangajang, yet another round of touring with The Angels and some BIG plans for the future, it looks like Chris Bailey has more busy times ahead. That must be a good feeling? Chris says he is thankful to be given this opportunity at this stage in his career. “I feel very fortunate. A lot of musos, at this point in their lives, are just struggling to find work or they’ve had to give it up to do something they really don’t want to do but we’ve just been really fortunate. Thanks to God and thanks to the fans that we still have an audience out there and we can still go out and do shows.”
It sounds like The Angels will be around for a while longer then?
Chris is optimistic. “We’re having a great time. The band’s ‘red hot’. Every gig’s just been an absolute ‘killer’! So, as long as that keeps going…” He pauses for a moment to reflect on the situation. “You know, we sort of look at each other and kind of laugh sometimes…. How lucky we are, at this age, to be working together again. With all the kind of ‘muddy water’ under the bridge, it’s just all good! The crowds have been incredible. You can feel the love coming back from the fans. It’s kind of bigger than all of us, really. As long as there’s an audience there for us, I think we’ll keep going as long as we can.”
by Sharyn Hamey
Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2009. All rights reserved
The Angels kick off their next series of ‘Live’ pub rock shows on Wednesday, 25th November at Davistown RSL, NSW. For more info and tour dates, go to www.theangels.com.au/tour