Published May 1994, The Music Paper
Ten years after their brilliant debut effort, Stoneage Romeos, hit the alternative airwaves, Australia's eccentrically tuneful Hoodoo Gurus are ready to release their sixth album, Crank.
The Gurus, guitarists-vocalists-songwriters Dave Faulkner and Brad Shepherd, bassist Rick Grossman and drummer Mark Kingsmill have returned to the basics for Crank.
Produced by Ed Stasium (Ramones, Living Colour, Smithereens), and on a new label, Zoo Records, the album is an infectious blast of stripped-down, bare-bones, no-frills, hard-hitting pop, appealing ballads, scathing rockers, wacked rock-a-billy and hook-heavy demi-metal.
"We wanted a more immediate, live-sounding album this time out." said Kingsmill, "Ed helped us get a much rawer feel than we've previously had on our records. The guitars have more of a 'live,' crunchy feeling than before "
"... the bass and drums are much more prominent, too," added Grossman, "given a lot of space, more focus "
"Brad and I paid dearly in bribes to get Ed to do that," laughed Kingsmill, "to get the drums and bass that loud on the record."
"Ed mixed Kinky, but had never seen us live." said Grossman, "He caught us at a gig and we surprised him because of how really different we sound live compared to our records."
"He wanted to help us get that sound on tape and offered to produce us." added Kingsmill, "That live energy had never been captured on vinyl before, a pretty common frustration for a lot of rock and roll bands we were aiming for a spontaneous, live feel and I think we got that."
Despite the fact that they haven't released a new album since 1991s Kinky (other than the well-received Electric Soup retrospective and a rarities compilation, Gorilla Biscuits, both released in '92), a Hoodoo Gurus show is money in the bank for club promoters, and a major event for fans of the band.
With a little help from Zoo, Crank should bring Australia's favorite sons the large-scale musical breakthrough they've always been denied.
"Our labels have never seemed to know quite what to do with us or how to market us." lamented Grossman, "We're a hard band to pigeon hole, so we've sort of dictated our own terms as we gained fans and confused labels."
"But remember," said Kingsmill, "music has undergone a huge change since our last tour. We were known as this sort of fringy, alterna-band, now what was fringy, is mainstream."
"With bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam and what have you all over the airwaves," he added, "it's really a good time for us to be out there."
"The new album is a continuation of what we've always done." stressed Grossman, "We didn't jump on a bandwagon or anything. We do what we do, tastes just seem to've caught up with us."
The band is well known for its slightly left-of-center sense of humor, a loose, friendly style in concert and in person, and a knack for picking an odd assortment of people to thank on their album sleeves, including; Arnold Ziffel, Larry Storch, Hank Kimball, Tina Louise, Sammy Davis Jr., Don Knotts, Barbara Eden, the town of Ames, Iowa and Phyllis Diller.
"We try to acknowledge all of our major influences as best we can," deadpanned Kingsmill, a confessed 1960s TV-junkie.
Maybe that sense of humor is what gave a local promoter in Australia THE idea.
"It was a coincidence." said Kingsmill, "One of the promoters was bringing Tiny Tim into Australia and "
"He's a legend!" exclaimed Grossman reverently, "A living legend!"
"He's great, really." laughed Kingsmill, "We thought it would be something kind of different, you know? So we agreed to do the shows."
"It was different." chortled Grossman.
"Dave introduced Tim a few times," reminisced Kingsmill, "we only jammed with him once, all of us up there on stage, the band, Tiny Tim, the suit, the hair, the voice, the ukulele, unbelievable we did a version of "Whole Lotta Love" that was "
"It fell apart miserably," Grossman finished wistfully, "horribly, so we didn't try it again."
"The ability to laugh at things like that the four of us get along really well and don't expect anything more than what we've got coming to us." said Kingsmill, "We try to keep a light-hearted approach to it all, you can't get too serious about attaining star-like goals or rewards."
"The Gurus are a great live group and we enjoy playing together." enthused Grossman, "I think the day we stop enjoying it is the day we . . ."
" the day we stop laughing," corrected Kingsmill, "is the day we stop."
-- AL MUZER