The Palisades from Perth, Australia! Such a fantastic band that only recorded around 11 songs. All of them top-notch! I was lucky to grab once their retrospective on Egg Records, and now even more lucky to have been in touch with Ian Freeman from the band. He was kind enough to answer all my questions!
++ Thanks so much Ian for being up for the interview! Most of us are going through a cold winter but down in Australia you are having a great summer! How have you being enjoying it so far?
The summer break has been great. Lots of days at the beach trying to perfect my surfing technique. I got a 9′2″ mal that gets a work out when ever possible.
++ You’ve been involved in many bands like Mars Bastards or Header, but I’m going to stick to Palisades questions on this interview. But I do wonder if this was your first band? I’ve heard about some band Peppermint Drops and another one Homecoming… but I’m not sure.
Well, I it was all a little fast paced at the beginning. I got offered the job as singer with the Homecoming by Gil Bradley and Mandy Haines who were friends of mine. That same weekend I was out at a gig and saw Jeff Baker who was playing with the Peppermints and asked how it was going and he told me they needed a new singer. So I jumped at it as they were actually playing gigs and a bit more organised. In the end I only played one crazy show with the Peppermint Drops in a place called Boyup Brook which is sorta like “deliverence” country. We supported The Stems.
++ The Palisades were formed around you and Jeff Baker, right? How did you both meet? And then how did you decide to start a band?
I was a friend of Jeff’s sister Sue. We are both a little younger than J.B. so when he would go out, we would sneak into his room and play all his groovey records. I got to know him through that and going to see gigs. When the Peppermint Drops folded we just decided we would continue on together as we were both into the same scene and liked similar music etc.
++ How did this creative partnership work? What was the creative process behind it?
In the beginning Jeff had a large kitchen with a huge round table. We would catch up at his place two or three times a week and just throw ideas at each other across the table. He was studying English literature at uni and would lay out sheets of poems and I would cut out lines from each of them and paste them together. I think we just put half finished ideas down onto a cassette player for later reference. Maybe one out of every 5 songs would make it to a rehearsal. Out of the rehearsal maybe one out of two songs would make it to the gig. Out of the set list of say 20 songs we only recorded a few, maybe 10.
++ How did the other members came to be in the band? How was the recruiting process?
Well I was trying to play guitar at the time and another of our friends Gary was playing bass but neither of us were getting very far. Jeff had some friends from his contacts with The Stems. Velo Zupanovich who played bass with Dom in the Gostarts and Guido Berini who played guitar with Velo in a band called The Rayguns. He recruited them then we found a drummer Richard Nash. Gary was asked to leave and I was asked to stop playing guitar and concentrate on singing!
++ Why the name The Palisades?
Jeff came up with it. He was into the shapes of words back then, and probably still is. He liked the way the P and the d offset each other, the repetition of the s’s and the way the a and l almost make a d. After he put so much thought into it how was any of us going to object.
++ The Perth scene in the 80s seems so vibrant! How do you explain that explosion of guitar pop bands in the city? As you were around, I have to ask, was there a band in Perth that was great but no one has heard about? I mean, we’ve all heard of Summer Suns, Stolen Picassos, Charlotte’s Web, etc etc… but maybe you remember some other?
Perth is one of the most isolated citys in the world. The music scene has always been pretty vibrant, basically because you have to make your own fun. If you didn’t you would go nuts through lack of things to do. So you start a band, or mange a band, or open a club, or start a shop selling cool records and t-shirts because literally nobody else was doing it. Why guitars? Acappella doesn’t cut it and synths were so expensive I guess. Bands were popping up and blowing out so fast. My fave band of that time were Traitors Gate who my friend Andre Scannel sang for. He was very into Velvet Underground, Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen and they sounded like a mix of all that. I only have one blurred photo of them live. I don’t think they ever recorded. Kim Williams band The Holy Rollers were good too. Rabbits Wedding were another.
++ A friend of mine once made me a copy of the Out of the Woodwork tape, but neither him or me have any information on it. Do you know anything about it? I know there were two of your songs there, but I have no clue who released it or when…
Every year or so someone in Perth puts a compilation out of who ever is playing the scene at that time. It’s usually called something like “Edge of the World” or “Way Out West” or “Look At Us We’re Trying Really Hard”. The motives behind them were always a bit suss and a bit sad. We did it for promotional reasons as did all the bands. I cant remember what we put on there or who else was involved.
++ You appeared on a compilation and a flexi, both released by a radio station. Was this something common back in the day? Radios supported independent bands?How did you end up on these releases?
Radio 6NR was a uni run station. Jeff was going to uni and managed to get us a slot on there every Tuesday night 9 to midnight. We got to spin all our latest records and have a bit of a laugh. It was great fun. Unless you liked listening to the usual FM playlists there was no radio station playing the stuff we liked. You couldn’t hear Elvis Costello, R.E.M., Lets Active, The Smiths any where except 6NR and 6UVSFM another uni station which later turned into 3RTR. And all these radio programs were being run by our friends and other band members. This is where I first heard Big Star, Television, Gram Parsons so many great bands…it was an education every night. Then a mag came out and a flexi disc on the cover. We were really lucky to do one. I think the Kryptonics did one. The mag would have news on local bands and gigs coming up.
++ How did you end up signing to Easter Records? How was your relationship with Neil Kim? Any anecdotes you could share?
Kim ran a shop called White Ryder Records?. I had been going in there since I was about 16. I would go in days in a row and just look at the records I wanted to buy as I had no money. You could stand there for hours and listen to Kim and his pals spin great tunes. So we all knew Kim for ages. Kim had put out my mate Ian Underwoods bands ep (The Kryptonics) and Jeff had done Summer Suns releases with him. He was very relaxed about the whole thing.
++ What do you remember from recording this mini-LP? And how many copies were there made? I can’t yet find a copy for myself!
We recorded the lp in two sessions. Recording was very expensive back then so we played our arses of and saved a few thousand dollars and we went into the best studio in Perth called Planet with John Vilani who is sadly no longer with us. We did side one in there on the day Liverpool played Everton in an F.A. cup final. Having grown up in Liverpool this was a huge deal for me and I had to keep running out to check the score then back in to do vocal takes. Agony! The second side we recorded in Shelter Studios with Andy Priest?…Kim was on board by now. I remember Kim got the records pressed and they had a printed lyric sheet insert that had to be put in each one. We sat at his place and did everyone by hand. 1000 copies? this was the day Kim introduced me to Pet Sounds. Shit, the hairs on my neck just stood up!!! I think Da Da Records in Perth still has a few copies floating about.
++ I did find the Egg Records compilation, which is such a fantastic compilation of all of your releases plus an unreleased track. But I do wonder if there are still more unreleased tracks from The Palisades? maybe hiding in some old dusty tapes?
Sorry thats it. I do have a cassette of us rehearsing live but its very rough. There are about 7 or 8 unreleased tunes on there. Turkish Delight, My New Address.. cant remember the rest.
++ What are your favourite Palisades’ songs?
It’s hard for me to be objective. When I listen to them now I hear song writers on a learning curve. Like looking back on your primary school days. Light As Air was one of those round table songs. As is Today of All days which I still play on guitar to this day. So I guess I will take those two. Oh and The Jetty.
++ What about gigging? Did you gig lots as The Palisades? Any particular gigs you remember and why?
We did heaps of shows. We supported The Stems a few times, The Go Betweens, The Triffids, Hunters and Collectors, Falling Joys plus we got to play heaps of shows when going out to a gig was the thing to do so crowds were big like 300, 400 to a local band which was massive. I cant remeber any one show in particular. Being back stage with the all those bands was huge and seeing Mark Seymour warming up his vocals before a show was a huge moment for me personally like..”Shit, this is serious buisness here”. Up until then I didn’t take singing very seriously, just a bit of a giggle really. When I saw you could be as professional as a guitarist or drummer about it I really started to listen and learn.
++ Okay, I said I’d stick to Palisades but this I do want to ask, would you care to tell me a bit about the Pelicassos Brothers? I’ve been looking for songs for like forever but never to find anything. Was there anything released? Or at least, are there any recordings?
Martin Gambie and I got together on days where there was not much going on in the Palisade or Stolen Picassos camps. Our bands would play together often and we even had a song called “Weeping Woman” which was the name of the Picasso painting that was actually stolen.He got me into Mamas and Papas and obscure vocal bands and I would try to convince him of the merits of The Fleshtones or Jellyfish. We would jam a few of our favorite tunes together and a couple of covers like Dylans “You Aint Going Nowhere” and “Swan Swan Hummingbird” by R.E.M. and practice our harmonies. The we started playing a few gigs as a duo and I finally got to play 12 string! Then we would get rolling drunk. I do have a tape with two songs on it which I discovered the other day. I hadn’t listened to it for over 20 years! It was never released and one of the songs is just humming no words but the other song is great.
++ What about the tribute band the Pale Sadies?
You have got to be joking?
++ There is a moment when you all decide to move to Sydney, why was that? Then you came back to Perth, right? Was that when the band broke up?
First our drummer Richard Nash left the band and was replaced by Chad then Dave Hale, then Guido left and we decided to play as a four piece. Then Jeff and Dave quit to pursue other interests. Velo and I decided to continue on as the band had quite a following and we were getting heaps of shows. So Gil Bradley from The Homecoming replaced Jeff on guitar (who went on to start the Rainyard) and Duncan McMillan came in from the Stolen Picassos to play drums. We recorded a few songs with this line up of which “Memories of Old Flowers” and “Deaths Echoes” made it onto the Palisades cd on Egg records. Sydney was where all the record companies were at the time and all the new pop bands were coming out of Sydney so we decided to move there. Velo quit and we got Mandy Haines in from the Homecoming/Rosemary Beads to play bass. We played about 15 shows there and went down well but we never really got a foot hold. Jeff was sending tapes of The Rainyards stuff and it sounded like all the fun was back in Perth so we moved back. I just hung out for a year and then Jeff and I started the Mars Bastards with Gil on guitar. There were five line ups with the Palisades and each one had its own distinctive sound.
++ Are you still making music? What are some of Ian Freeman’s hobbies?
I still play in a band with Jeff called The Lazybirds here in Melbourne. Shaun Lahore from the Mars Bastrads plays drums with us and Dave Johnstone and Phil Natt from Ammonia play guitar and bass respectively. We have recorded a 7 track EP but have no label so are sitting on that at the moment. Hobbies??? Well, I surf. I am a chef so I cook and eat out. And play gigs when ever possible!
++ Thanks again for doing this interview, anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for the trip down memory lane. It was heaps of fun. Take care.