My first band was formed while I was still in High School, I was 14 years old. The lineup was: Andrew Heggan (now known as Red Rivers) Lead Guitar, John Tebbitt (Rhythm Guitar), David Solid (Bass) and Ricky Wood (Drums). "Amulet" (known for a very short time as the "China Dogs") played hard rock covers by bands such as AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Budgie, Deep Purple etc. This band was formed in 1975 at Sarina State High School where Andrew and I were both enrolled. I played my first pub gigs in this band despite being way too young to even set foot in a hotel in Queensland in 1976.
I formed "Quo Vadis" with Geoff Baker in 1977 after being thrown out of "Amulet" for being too young. "Quo Vadis" was a 3 piece lineup, playing covers of songs from the 60's and early 70's, less hard rock and more country styled rock a-la Creedence.
After High School I moved to live in Mackay in 1978 at the age of 17. I joined "Breezin" as Lead Guitar and we played semi Jazz covers by artists like George Benson, albeit quite badly as I had none of the skills to emulate George Benson, even on bad day. "Breezin" fell apart quite quickly after playing only a few gigs.
The "Razz" came along at just the right time for me, even though I wasn't confidant after my audition that I would get the gig. I was hired as a bass player instead of a guitar player as Andrew Heggan and Rob Stewart were both playing guitar and my skills paled along side of theirs. I think I got the gig mainly because I had been a close friend of Andrews through High School, it certainly couldn't have been for my bass playing, I was terrible! Still, I was persistent, and that is mostly what counts.
I brought my good friend Shawn Frater with me, and that also helped me get the gig, as Shawn was an awesome drummer. Words like ferocious spring to mind! Shawn sadly had to leave when the band began to clash with his commitments to his family and business, so we recruited John Morley as a casual replacement until we could find someone who would fit.
Keith came along playing on the circuit in a band called "Hot Doctor" and we basically stole him off them (sorry guys!). Andrew left to pursue his own career and so we then recruited Tony. The "Razz" broke up in early 1980. We basically collapsed due to exhaustion and poverty.
I met Bruce Hardy when I got a gig working Front of house for "Street Walker" about 3 months after the Razz broke up. I filled in while Keith Powell (Chief) went to England on tour (I forgot with whom he was touring!). I had a great time on the road with these guys for about 3 months, but when Chief came back from overseas, I was out of work again.
I returned to Brisbane and caught up with Rob who was living in Tarragindi at the time. Rob took me to a party where I met the members of "Shaky Jake". The bass player was about to leave, so I jumped up at the party and we jammed and I was offered the gig as their bass player. I moved to the Sunshine Coast to live and play with the "RooStars" as the band became known after renaming themselves when I joined.
This band played some fairly hard rock and roll, and was playing about 25% originals alongside of the usual complement of covers you had to play to get work in Queensland in those days. The lineup of the "Roostars" was: Glen Fox (lead vocals), Ray Gauge (Lead Guitar), Steve Sykes (nee Rollins, nee Strange - second Lead Guitar), Bruce Fogarty (Drums) and myself on Bass.
The group supported all the most popular artists of the day including, but not limited to: Renae Geyer, Doug Parkinson and the Southern Star Band, GoldRush , Cold Chisel, Mental as Anything, The Divinlys, The Models, The Church, The Angels and Bo Didley (I got to play in the Bo Didley show as his Bass player for a night which is an experience I will never forget).
The "Roostars" collapsed in 1981 due to exhaustion and poverty, so I moved to Brisbane and took a day gig to get myself out of serious debt.
"Street Car" was a band formed by Keith Johnson and Steve ?. Rob Stewart, myself (Bass and some Vocals)) and Sue Bond (Lead Vocals) were recruited at around the same time to augment the lineup and this band toured frequently in South East Queensland. Highlights of my time in this band included playing at a outdoor New Years Eve concert at Cavil Avenue on the Gold Coast supporting, Debbie Burn and Normie Rowe. "Street Car" also managed to obtain a 3rd place in the Queensland Rock awards, I forget which year! Street Car was yet another covers band, and I was beginning to tire of the impossibility of breaking out of the covers cycle.
Room with a View
"Room with a View" followed on the heels of the demise of "Street Car". The lineup was: Rob Stewart (Lead Guitar), John Tebbitt (Vocals and Rhythm Guitar), Geoff Millgan (Bass), Trevor Gollagher (Drums - later plays in Lil Fi's band) and Tony Quail (Keyboards - formerly played with Keith Megson in "Naughty Bits"). The band name came about because Tony brought with him a large supply of posters for the "Naughty Bits". The poster was a graphic depicting a lady spying through a keyhole, so we covered up the previous name and we came up with "Room With A View" as a play on the graphic in the reused poster. "Room with a View" played Top 40 covers material and managed to gain some support slots, most noticeably with Australian Crawl. Nevertheless it seemed again that I was trapped in a covers band and I grew restless and wanted to move on.
I joined Cadillac after the demise of "Room with a View" thinking that I should try and keep my hand in by playing covers while waiting to form the original band I was always scheming to start up. However I couldn't find any one to join in the band I was trying to get started and so I stayed with Cadillac for about 6 months and then left to save some money, having decided that I must get a demo together to try and attract some attention to the songs I was writing.
I recorded my first serious demo tape at Burbank Studios Brisbane on 8 Track that year, it was 1986. Although I contributed a significant amount of time and money to the recording, it didn't turn out the way I imagined, and so I began to consider moving interstate as a serious alternative method of jump starting my stalled musical career. At the end of 1986 I quit my job, packed all my belongings into my Ford F350 truck and drove the 650 miles to Sydney.
I arrived at the very beginning of January 1987, just before my birthday (January 7th). I temporarily moved into a massive terrace house in St Johns Road Glebe and shared the house with Carloyn Polley (now in "Big Heavy Stuff") and John Flade (then in the "Ups and Downs") as well as a large cast of other players and students. For the first 6 months I worked around Sydney doing Front of House and Lugging to pay my dues and get to know some people.
After moving to Chippendale in the second half of that year, I answered an advertisement in one of the periodical gig magazines of the day and landed the job playing lead guitar for "Ian D. Hearn and the Indispensibles".
Ian D Hearn and the Indispensibles
Ian was one of the Hearn brothers of "Strange Tennants" fame and we were performing his original material around the inner city suburbs in the usual venues of 1987 including the Lansdowne Hotel and others.
I answered an ad in a indie music mag for a guitar player wanted, and was asked to attend a party in Newtown. It was a typical Saturday night in Newtown, I showed up and simply sat in on the gig! I had never heard the songs before, so I did my best to invent some sympathetic lines to play alongside Ian's great songs. He told me at the end of the gig I had the job, if I would just play exactly what I had played at the gig in each tune!
Needless to say, I rushed home and tried to commit everything I had just improvised to memory, not much sleep that night.
Ian decided to return to University and complete his degree studies, so with the demise of that band I was again at a loose end. At about this time some musician friends I had met in Brisbane (but never played in bands with) moved to Sydney and we began to hang out together. This group of friends became "The Fact".
"The Fact" grew out of jams which happened on Sunday evenings at the home of Don and Dawn Mather at Chester Hill in Sydney's western suburbs. At those jams the people playing were most typically, Kerry and Kevin Mather, John Newell, myself and Ross Hoskings.
The combo really clicked and I was inspired to write a large number of songs for the group.
This band recorded a number of demos, the first being recorded at Kingsrow studios with Frank Kerestedshjian on 16 track, then some 8 track demos at the Mathers house on equipment bought by Kevin Mather.
The 16 track and 8 track material was combined to create an "EP" which we distributed on cassette. The tapes didn't sell at all, but strangely everywhere we went someone knew the tunes? A particularly popular track was "The Elephants Graveyard", but we had recorded some other great material as well, and "Where do I stand", "Never be the same" and "Gust" were all standout tunes from that band.
The later demos were all recorded at Megaphon Studios on 24 track. I struck up friendships with Shayne Fahey and Guy Dickerson of Megaphon Studios, and eventually threw my hat in with them and became a partner in AirMotion Studios.
During my association with Shayne and Guy I was involved in so many projects that I cannot recall them all, but suffice to say that this was the most exciting period of my musical career.
By this stage it was 1990 and just about everyone was recording at Megaphon Sound Recording Studios. AirMotion was intended to become an adjunct studio to complement the major project studio which was Megaphon.
During my time at Megaphon/Airmotion I saw a cavalcade of great Australian artists creating great music right before my eyes.
Sadly, commercial success eluded us at AirMotion and by 1994 I had to move on. At this stage in my life I decided to take a hiatus from music and concentrate on developing an alternative career to ensure some financial independence for myself and my wife. I retired from music to devote all my energy to my career in Information Technology.
"State Secret" came from out of the blue. I had pretty much decided that my days of playing and writing were over, but Rob, Keith and Tony convinced me otherwise. I was inspired by the jams we had during pre-production and wrote "Love is Such a Thrill " and "Not Done Yet" to augment the collection of historical materials everyone (self included) was contributing.
I wanted the project to have a least a couple of new tunes to build the group sound with. Other tunes were written at the time but are reserved for the next album project by the "State Secret". I can't wait!