(Photo credit Mark Simpson)
By Lars Brandle, London
The list of superstar bands planning to reunite and hit the road this year has been nothing short of remarkable. The Police, Van Halen, Genesis, Crowded House and the Spice Girls are among the former powers in pop and rock who have decided to push aside their respective differences, and stun naysayers the world over.
But amid all the ticket sales-frenzy and media fuss, another, no-less culturally important band — Australia’s the Saints — is quietly reassembling its classic line-up for an unlikely return.
Considered one of the first and most influential punk groups, the Saints have been described by Bob Geldof as one of the three bands which changed the 1970s, the others being the Sex Pistols and the Ramones.
Frontman Chris Bailey, who curated and performed June 6 at Billboard’s City Showcase Australia gig in London, has since kept the Saints name alive, recording and touring with various line-ups.
To mark the occasion, Wildflower Records will release on July 17 in the U.S. a box set, “The Greatest Cowboy Movie Never Made,” comprising the Saints first three post-EMI records, a previously unreleased live set from the period and the new album, “Imperious Delirium”, ahead of a string of U.S. dates. Billboard caught up with Bailey ahead of the reunion.
The Saints are reuniting with their classic line-up for a July 14 performance featuring yourself, (guitarist/songwriter) Ed Kuepper and (drummer) Ivor Hay. How did that come about?
It is essentially a “one off” and very peculiar to Brisbane, the city in Australia the band is associated with. There is a large concert planned [Pig City] to celebrate the cultural successes/excesses of the state of Queensland, and I guess locally we miscreants are viewed as a part of that. It is not really a reunion in the classic sense as we have done similar stuff before as and when it seemed like there was a good meal and fine plonk involved. A permutation of this line up got together in 2001 to be inducted into the Australian Music Hall of Fame. Ivor and I have been in various incarnations of the band at different times over the years. The upshot is (current band line-up) Peter (Wilkinson) and Caspar (Wijnberg) have graciously allowed me some time off to indulge in a bit of time warp shenanigans. “So into the jolly Tardis [time-travelling device, as seen on U.K. TV show “Dr Who”],” says I. Immediately after the show in Brisbane, Peter, Caspar and I are off to New York to do a bit of telly and promo for the new Saints album “Imperious Delirium.”
What are the chances the “classic” line-up will tour and record a new album?
Your band was at the vanguard of the punk scene in the 1970s. What do you make of today’s rock bands?
It’s not so much that we were at the vanguard so much as we were on the periphery. I don’t think any of us were that enamoured with the punk tag. However I can accept that “punk rock” has come to mean something over the years and if one has to be lumped into a category I guess that punky rock is better than being perceived as a born again Christian zealot or a supporter of “new Labour”? So in that context I guess it’s O.K. As to new bands, it is pretty much same as it ever was – some bands are great, some are crap – one shouldn’t forget that this is “showbiz!”
Have you mellowed-out with age?
I am not sure; though parts of me have yellowed somewhat.
You were raised in Australia, but you’ve spent a large part of your career based in Europe. Do artists from Down Under have to relocate to Europe or North America to crack it, or can the infrastructure support a healthy scene?
That would depend on the artist I imagine. Slim Dusty did have a U.K. hit but the bulk of his material may not have been terribly relevant in Huddersfield or Slough. Which is a shame, as he was an interesting artist. On the other hand Kylie Minogue is an international icon – go figure!
What other projects are you currently working on?
The Saints new album is our principle focus at the moment. Also at the minute I am in song writing mode – so am spending a lot of time locked in the garage making things up. I hope to have a solo record released one of these days.