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TROUBLE IN BEER GARDEN
THE ATLANTICS INTERVIEW

By Rob Lastdrager

The Atlantics on stage

Occasionally, a band resurfaces from an obscure corner of Australian rock'n'roll history and reminds us all that this seemingly endless spin cycle of reality television and mainstream surf culture is not exactly "aqua profonda". Sydney's surf maestros The Atlantics were pioneers who defined the instrumental rock'n'roll of the early sixties. Formed in 1961, they released over twenty-five records, including the iconic hit Bombora, which was number one in Australia for eight weeks. After a number of tours and worldwide success, by 1970 The Atlantics were beached on a lonely atoll, swamped by the vocal tsunami of the Beatles, the Beach Boys and others. Repeated pleas from surf music devotees, coupled with renewed interest in the genre as a primary influence on many new artists, led to the band reforming in 1998. Since then they have released 3 CDs - the latest being Point Zero - whilst touring continually to international acclaim.

The Atlantics were recently invited to tour with The Beach Boys on the Australian leg of their world tour, and in between sound check and showtime I squeezed them into a boisterous Galleon café for coffee and questions.

The Atlantics are: Martin Cilia (g), Peter Hood (d), Bosco Bosanac (b), Jim Skiathitis (g).

(RL) I read you guys pawned everything you had to buy your first amplifier. Was the amplifier worth it, and did you ever get your gear back?

(BB) Yeah, it was a Fender Bandmaster with a Piggyback. The light coloured tan type. (PH) Which at the time was the sound of Bombora, so I guess we got our money's worth.

(RL) You guys had such a ferocious sound on Bombora.

Can you tell us a bit about your instruments and the recording process at that time?

(BB) Well for a start, it was recorded on a mono BTR…

(PH) Huge machines which came from England, like washing machines…

(BB) They looked like dirty great washing machines, only bigger, like dirty big commercial fridges like you'd see in a shop, just to do a mono recording, you know? (laughs).

(RL) As you revisit and re-record some of your classic material, what impact is modern recording technology having on the classic sound of The Atlantics?

(PH) Aaah, well we'll let Martin, our resident chief producer go into that technical area…

(MC) Well the thing with recording is that you have to keep changing with the times, you have no choice, you can't go back and do it as it was done in 1963, it's just not available anymore, so I think the advantage is you get more time. The original Bombora was probably done, from what I can gather…the first session was over an hour or two, and three tracks recorded in that time. You can't over-dub anything, you can't drop in, it's all done live. The band doesn't even get to hear the playback til they hear it on the radio! Whereas now you have a bit more hands-on, if you like.

(RL) Bombora broke for you worldwide in 1963. Given the resurgence of surf music in the last decade, what sort of exposure have The Atlantics had internationally of late?

(PH) Apart from a lot of interest in Spain, we've got tracks on three special projects recorded around the world. One is a tribute album to Ennio Morricone, the guy famous for the spaghetti westerns.

(BB) We do the title track for that, "The Good, Bad and the Ugly".

(MC) We've got the "American Graffiti Revisited" out of Italy…

(BB) On which we play The Big Bopper's 'Chantilly Lace'…like a surf rockabilly version of that…and there's 'Jesus Christ Surferstar' on the OmOm label also out of Italy. And we do sell a lot of our product on the Internet. We're getting a lot of feedback from all over the world, people buying CD's and making comments.

(JS) That's really been the biggest breakthrough recently, hasn't it? To get international access on the Internet straightaway.

(RL) Yes, it's been a breakthrough for all sorts of bands, to get their music to their niche markets worldwide.

(BB) Indeed, and this has led to us performing in Spain in November / December, on the Costa De La Sol, where they have a big music festival called the "Wild Weekend", and we're going over there to perform at that.

(RL) THUNDERBIRDS drummer Harold Frith has told me about the notorious post gig car park punch-ups with jealous boyfriends, and gangs. Would you tell us a little of the Sydney scene and what it was like for you at the peak of your popularity? Did the Atlantics ever have to rumble and run?

(All together) No! Yeah! Aw, wait a minute!!

(BB) You've forgotten about the Royal Hotel!

(PH) Aw, it's the only time it ever happened!

(BB) I can still feel my chin, man! I got my ribs fractured! I've still got a scar on my chin where I was kicked with a big pointed stiletto boot. (PH) But they were out socially at a pub; it had nothing to do with the band!

(BB) We went to watch the RJ's or the Rajahs, they were the band who backed Dig Richards, and they were in this dodgy little pub called The Royal at Bondi, on Bondi Road, and there were about twenty or more guys, we found out later, after we were belted to pieces and dragged ourselves off to a hospital to get patched up and sewn up. I had to take time off work for a fair few weeks! I still drive past there and the same house is still across the road from the pub, there's a doorway, like a Spanish arch, it's still there, that's where I was kicked into by all these guys.

(PH) Give us the shorter story!

(BB) Kicked into this door, kicked to death, it's still there you know, every time I drive past (laughs) I think about that, and that was forty years ago!

(JS) I was the lucky one; I got king hit and went…(wipe-out!)…I was down, they didn't bother with me any more!

(BB) And the reason this started was because we were watching this band, they were friends of ours. We were leaving the venue, crossing the road, and our singer, Kenny Shane, had his girlfriend with him, and all these guys were swearing near him, and he said "Hey, don't swear in front of my girlfriend" and within about two seconds, we were all on the ground, getting kicked to death by this mob of guys, and we found out later they were the Paddington Boys, one of the notorious rocker gangs at the time.

(PH) Probably all grandfathers today… (laughter all round).

(RL) With your second album "STOMPING TIME" you were credited as the first Australian band to record an album of totally original material. In retrospect that's a significant landmark. Was it perceived that way at the time?

(PH) No, because even Bombora had trouble being accepted, because initially it was knocked back by anyone who heard it. The only person was a Sven Libaek, who was the new A&R man for CBS, and he'd come out from Sweden, anyway, he had a fresh mind, fresh outlook. He heard Bombora and was jumping ten feet in the air.

(BB) Yeah, he was a real open-minded guy…

(PH) And he said, "I must have you boys, I must have you, and sign you right away".

(RL) And you guys played live in his office?

(BB) Yeah, we did play live in his office, after we'd sent him a demo, which we recorded on a little Philips mono recorder at rehearsals. We auditioned live also, and that's how it broke.

(PH) Our compositions were not really perceived as being phenomenally original back then, but obviously after Bombora kinda snuck through on that secret wave of people believing we were an overseas band…

(BB) And we didn't see any point in being a cover band really…

(PH) Well that was it really, we wanted to create our own sound, and we spent months creating the sound which is now the 'Bombora sound' and which we carried through to some other tracks as well. (BB) And that was an exciting new era, when electric guitars were only just hitting the scene, and people were getting Fender and Gibson guitars, trying to get their hands on them here, they were really hard to get hold of, (as were) the amplifiers: Vox, and the Fender amps. And there was a lot of experimenting going on, and I think we were one of the forerunners of that and a lot of bands followed suit, and then The Beatles hit, and the whole scene changed and went forward, it just changed and went way ahead.

(RL) That leads me nicely to the "whodunit". Did the Beatles kill surf music?

(BB) Oh yeah, sure did!

(PH) They killed everyone's music!

(BB) They killed everybody! We weren't the only people playing instrumental; there were a lot of bands who were clones of The Shadows, and Cliff Richard's band. There were a lot of us in those days, and suddenly, you had to turn into vocalists - Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, or Them - they had to become like the Mersey bands, the British scene, even the Americans started to copy all that shortly after, y'know Gary Puckett and The Union Gap and all those guys, grew their hair and started looking like The Beatles, wearing Carnaby Street clothes. And everybody had to do it, or you were left right out of it. Otherwise, you just stayed in cabaret and played daggy cabaret music (laughs).

(RL) Your latest release is Point Zero. 13 new tracks plus a version of the old fave Hawaii Five-0. For people interested in checking out The Atlantics, where can they find your music?

All they have to do is look at the website, www.theatlantics.com but if people aren't into that, they can contact us at P.O. Box 1088 Maroubra NSW 2035

The band are currently in a Sydney studio recording the next album and negotiations are currently underway to have the Atlantics tour the United States for the first time including festivals in Hawaii and California over the coming American summer months.


“Get Your Shit Outta Here”

by Rob Lastdrager

So, you’re in a two-bit Melbourne rock’n’roll band doing the rounds, ….a few gigs here and there, small audience and even smaller market. Where to from here? Forget about Australian Idol and those music industry competitions, ……just log on and make your own waves. Playing in a band, creating, recording, promoting and selling truly independent releases has always been a roller coaster ride of energy, excitement, emotion and timing, all the while eyes shut, fingers crossed and ticket in sweaty hand. But now, the Internet has become the new middleman. These days it’s possible for self financed independent releases to source particular niche outlets world wide, and approach them directly, saving time, and in a lot of cases money. You may be small fry here, but there’s a whole school of specialist radio programs, particularly on community radio world wide, which are bustin’ to hear and play original sounds.

I play in a local surf trio who have released an independent CD and we have been inspired by the airplay, sales, and response from rock’n’roll and surf music radio programs, bands and audiences worldwide. OK, so here in Melbourne like most bands, we play intermittent gigs to small crowds in small pubs, which we enjoy. However, on an international scale we are contributing to a world wide scene, a huge and fantastic niche market, where community radio programs are play listing our music alongside a host of surf related bands from the early 1960’s up to the present day, putting our music and the reason we play and record it into context. We have been picked up across the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, France, Russia, Canada and a gamut of community and college based stations right across the US, and placed on weekly rotation from Portland Oregon’s KBOO down to Phil Dirt’s Reverb Central in Santa Cruz, up to Rochester’s WITR, across to New York’s WNYU and WFMU, down to KSYM in San Antonio, Texas, and across the borders to some crazy surf cats in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, all of which have vibrant surf / live rock’n’roll / festival / community radio scenes. It’s great to exchange information and your love of the music while making sales and touring contacts for the future, all the while filling them in on what the scene in Australia, and in particular Melbourne has to offer.

And what does it take? Well, it takes what it’s always taken; a dose of DIY ethos as espoused in those fantastic old Maximum Rock’n’Roll magazines. The “Book Your Own Fuckin’ Life!” issues were basically global indie music address books listing punk bands, helpful dudes, share houses, squats and other accommodation, venues, street press, cheap eats and all round info to get you where you’re going while rockin’ out and on the skids.

So, relax, cut out the middleman and create your own down and dirty contact list. Surf the web for like-minded radio, bands and record stores and start making contact. The rest is easy, follow-up with snail mail and get your shit outta here par avion - a simple promotional pack including a biography (one page max!) poster, stickers, whatever, and of course your CD, and you’ll be forking out less than $4.00 all up for delivery anywhere on the planet. Yeah, it ain’t rocket science, but if you’re gonna promote your product, make it a celebration. The worldwide community radio network, DJ’s, bands and music fans will thank you for it. So what are you waiting for?

© 2005 ROB LASTDRAGER

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