Rockbrat Chat: The Jed Starr Interview (Part 1) – Jed Talks With Cowboy Col

To many Sydney and Melbourne gig goers, Jed Starr was a constant on the mid to late 80’s heavy rock and metal scenes. From Kings Cross to Massive Appendage and the Festers Fanatics, he then moved south to Melbourne and found success with Killing Time. I recently wrote a post called, “Whatever Happened To Jed Starr” which generated much interest from readers. We are happy to announce that Jed has been in contact with Rockbrat and has answered many questions we put to him about his musical past, present and indeed future. (Interview conducted November, 2011 by Cowboy Col). This is part 1 of the interview…..

RB: Jed, Where did you grow up ?

Jed: Melbourne and Sydney

 RB: When did you and your brothers start getting into rock n roll and who were your influences ?

Jed: I took an interest in the guitar when I was about five or six.  My very early influences include The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, most British invasion music, psychedelic and progressive rock plus jazz fusion.

RB: Were your parents musical, and did they encourage you and your brothers musical pursuits?

Jed: Yes, my father Ray actually had his own radio program in the 50s and he was a well known drummer and singer. He bought my first guitar in 1973 and my Mum drove us to endless music lessons so yes, they were very encouraging.

RB: What was your first band?

Jed: The first ‘proper’ band I was in was with Tubby Wadsworth, Fester and Squire (Peter Armstrong). A lot of people don’t realise that Fester has always played guitar, and already had an electric set up including a Peavey amp. Our first big event was in 1978 at our school hall playing ‘Johnny B Goode’ and some other twelve bar blues. We also played in other school bands, plays, musicals etc. You could note that we saw Phil Bowley (Candy Harlots, Rags ‘n’ Riches, Shy Thunder, Melody Black) play in school musicals in the late 70’s/early 80’s and this was years before we met him. We are a few years younger than Phil.

RB: What was the first record you ever bought?

Jed: The New Seekers, “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing”. Next main one was ‘Explosive Hits 73/74’.

RB: Was it always the guitar for you or did you play any other instruments ?

Jed: Always guitar, a little piano and lots of vocals.

RB: First concert you saw ?

Kush (Jeff Duff) in Darebin Arts Centre (Preston, Melbourne) and Sherbet in the early seventies at Southland, Cheltenham!

RB: Your favourite guitar?

Jed: All guitars including cheap and second-hand ones (especially 60s and 70s Japanese guitars).

RB: Your favourite guitar players?

Jed: Some Australian players such as Kevin Pratt, Phil Emmanuel, Kevin Borich, Wayne Gardner and Avion, Brad Carr, Rob Riley, Peter Wells, Lobby Loyde  Billy Thorpe.

RB:  In the early 80’s your family relocated from Sydney to LA, is that correct ? How long was the family there?

Jed: I travelled back and forth throughout the 80s.

RB: In the mid 80s, you and your brothers formed a thrash band called Massive Appendage, who along with Mortal Sin and Slaughter Lord, really led the way for that style of music in Sydney and maybe Australia? Did massive Appendage play outside of Sydney? Was their overseas interest in the band ?

Jed: Yes we mainly played in Melbourne and the first tour was with Mortal Sin and Slaughter Lord, who Venom and I thought were a truly over the top, great band. Bands were actually still getting faster and more complex at that stage. This truly was a memorable tour in many ways. Fester couldn’t believe the party bus on the way down to Melbourne, which inspired the Festers song ‘Tripping To Melbourne’. Kings cross also did some shows at the Prince of Wales Hotel in St. Kilda. These shows were also mixed with the help from Rick and John Jiles of Blackjack, who were some of the most helpful and genuine people we met in the Melbourne scene at that time. Melbourne had a really different scene at the time, with bands like Virgin Soldiers, Nothing Sacred, Fair Warning, Axatak – and the most punk of all punks – Smeer and Depression. Depression was at their peak. Smeer (who has also played in the Festers many, many line-ups) was just an outright, awesome vocalist and guitarist. Dakka was on drums. Great drummer. One of my other favourite heavy bands who only played one show in Sydney at the St James Tavern in 1986 was a band from Melbourne called Tyrus, fronted By Peter Hobbs – later to become Angel Of Death.

We also had help from the ‘Metal For Melbourne’ crew – Greta, Jason and Joel and also Taramis. Bird and I went down to Melbourne 6 months before that tour and got the original Massive Appendage demo into a few shops and on the 3RRR Metal Show. We spread the demo around to various sources. The bands first gig was at the Trade Union Club with Died Pretty. I recall Frozen Doberman, a western Sydney rock metal band who were just top,   nice people and of course – Addictive.

RB: In the late 80s you were playing in three bands – Fester Fanatics, Massive Appendage and Kings Cross. In those days there was plenty of venues and plenty of gigs available. Nowadays, live music is a small percentage of the entertainment industry. I honestly don’t know ANY musicians who can make a living full time out of music anymore. They were great days the mid to late 80s. Do you agree?

Jed: Agree completely. It’s gonna cost everything and more to keep investing and playing now – not that it didn’t then. Even in those days, unless you had a good and fair Manager and a top notch agent you weren’t gonna do jack. Not much has changed in that respect, but as long as you can stick to whatever it is you want to do and as long as you are around long enough – things can change. Sydney was a ‘tall poppy’ city – but there were many good bands with many good people who didn’t have hang ups. Box The Jesuit for one, Tex Perkins was another. Tex personally paid us when we were playing with any of his 3 or 4 bands. All three bands that we played in played at the Piccadilly Hotel in Kings Cross, a favourite venue for its diversity of audience who were open to all styles of music without prejudice. That loss of venue killed off a big part of the non superficial scene.

We actually used to go their especially to see The Moffs. Lubricated Goat hold good memories too. We played with them at the Hopetoun and the Old Greek Theatre in Melbourne amongst other gigs we did with them. They weren’t cry babies about volume either and made their own scene.

In early 1983, my Korean mate Sunhak took me to the Hopetoun and we saw the remnants of Heaven and Buffalo play one Sunday afternoon. It was at this gig that I realised that a good, small gig in the right place was (and is) just as satisfying and equally important as many others.

RB: Favourite Sydney venue and why?

Jed: PLENTY. The Sutherland Royal in Sutherland for one. That venue had all the three bands and trios with Snuff and Tubby over many years. Ned was our long time sound guy down there throughout those years. He also did many other shows for us on that side of town, such as at the Penshurst inn, St George Sailing Club, Peakhurst Hotel, Caringbah Inn and the Hurstville Hotel. The Sutherland Royal also hosted our first gig back from the States with Roxx and Phil Bowley’s band. I also remember at the end of 1986, Massappeal plays a brutal show there. This was at the time of their ‘Nobody Likes A Thinker’ EP). Tubby and I stood next to Brett Curotta’s amp for most of that gig. He played equal volume to me and Bird (who is actually louder than me). The only other person would be Blackie (Hard-Ons) who played loud with plenty of feedback but under control. By the way, Rob Reilly in the ‘beast’ days is the big daddy of all volume! Massappeal’s Randy Reimann was an unbelievable front man, and on fire at that gig. Massappeal’s performance at this gig was only to be topped by a gig at the Enmore Theatre, where they had more advanced sound and a shift in their songs and sound style. Massive and Mortals also played on this bill. Massappeal were the most hardcore punk band around Australia at the time – and we had seen plenty in the States up until then. Other venues? The  Seven Hills Hotel , Mount Druitt Hotel, Wagon Wheels Hotel, Kentucky Tavern, General Bourke and many, many others. The Wagon Wheels Hotel inspired the Festers song ‘Wagon Wheels’ and this place rocked as hard as anywhere – along with the Lewisham and Petersham Hotels. I recall the Punk Metal Rockfest of early 1987. It was summer, and the Petersham inn on a Saturday afternoon was completely packed with a queue lined up down the street. No room to move, no way in and no way out and 110 degrees. In my opinion, this was perhaps the peak of that metal crossover era in many ways. Things got a bit too serious after that.

RB:  Massive Appendage played the “Metal Olympics” in Sydney I recall, and the band released the Severed Erection LP. How well was the album received ? Did it sell internationally ?

Jed: Like I said before, it was a special, favourite gig for Massappeal. They had really matured around the time of that gig, and I can actually picture the middle part of that gig for them, which had light and shade in their sound. Mortal Sin was a consistent live band and were full pros by that stage, even though they had their line up changes.

The Massive album went out too many countries and we had much feedback especially from South America, Spain, UK, Germany, Malaysia, Holland and Japan – but, a lack of proper distribution was a major downfall.

RB: What were some of the most memorable gig s you did with MassiveAppendage ?

Jed: Bird could probably answer this question better than me as he was front man. We did have one funny show at the Yugal Soccer Club, where Snuff kept disappearing to the side of the stage into this little room. One minute he was there, the next he vanishes, then reappearing again. This kept happening  throughout the show – but he never missed a note !

RB: Was Original Records your label ? How well did the label do?

Jed: Yes it was. All the bands were on the label. It’s not really defunct, as whatever comes out in the future is still likely to be on Original. I haven’t disowned any recording format, and Killing Time had it written into their contract that vinyl pressings be made, in spite of all the pressures to move to the CD format. It’s sad, because had the music industry listened and not tried to over capitalize on the next sound format and in the process shutout the previous technology. The industry should have protected itself for the future, which has now become a joke, where you have a handful of diehards buying the last remaining CD’s (me being one of them). Yet who knows best – a muso or the industry?

RB: In the mid to late 80, the Sydney live scene was very strong wasn’t it – so many great bands, hard rock, metal and independent. Pubs were booking plenty of bands, live music really was the choice of entertainment for people. You look back fondly on those days ? Also, was their one Sydney band from that time who you considered should have made it but didn’t?

Jed: Before I start, let me clarify that there were different levels of what was considered  ‘achieving’ or ‘making it’. The Waterfront band scene was a separate thing, even more so than Red Eye. Pipe, Au Go Go and Cleopatra were the Melbourne versions. Many bands wouldn’t admit to it – as what was considered being commercial or ‘making it’ to some was uncool. Any form of playing good became ‘anti, which some of us call fake music anyway, Why the hell would you want to play worse than you should or could ? I can tell you straight out, bands like Depression and Massappeal worked their asses off and it payed off in their sound.

Punk is a word of attitude and the hunger of youth, so true punk should be no different. Ian Rilan is probably Australia’s exception to the rule as he was actually a punk originator, stylist and very uncompromising.

X did their own thing and anyone who is unaware of the true talent of a truly great punk vocalist should check out Steve Lucas, who is a master rock, metal, country and blues singer. You name it – he can do it. Check out Bigger Than Jesus. I was lucky enough to be one of the guitarists for him in a tribute to Slade show years ago, along with Max Horsehead on drums, Kev on bass, and Pete on guitar – but with so many factions that branched off to what was cool and what was not.

Bands had started to move on as things were beginning to change anyway. I personally don’t have a genre as I like great pop and all the heavy, blues rock stuff, acid rock, 70s progressive, one hit wonders, disco, dance – its endless really. I also like classical, jazz fusion, gypsy and all guitar styles. I love folk music when it’s not a fake cash in. As the cycles of music revolve, there is plenty of that fake folk rolling along   with it. I also like Frank Frith and the micro tonal improvisational stuff. Originality in music is always there with the right artists.

One band, Voodoo Lust should have had a hit on the radio as they had good harmony vocals and were a tight and consistent band and weren’t crybaby’s when it came to being a support band (as many were). They had a sort of southern Sydney surfish, original power pop punk sound – light years before the Good Charlotte types and the early 2000s pop punk revival etc.

Who else? The Spunk Bubbles. Their  ‘Metal Wench is a classic. I can’t forget Bigbird – who is a star in his own right.

I better mention the Candy Harlots. No front man came close to Mark Easton, from the first gig Candy Harlots played (at the Vulcan Hotel with Kings Cross) through to his last show at Kardomah Café. Killing Time actually played at the Landsdowne Hotel that night. Tubby and I made it back that night to the Kardomah to witness the end of an era for that line up. So I actually saw the first gig with Easton and the last with him.

Also Boss, a great band, but they needed to hold a line up together to some degree. I might go on about Boss but they rocked everytime. No crap gigs, though they might have thought so. I saw Boss throughout their career, from the time when I was old enough to get into a pub, right until they finished. I recall seeing them at Blondies at Rockdale in early 1983. Bengal Tigers and Rob Riley’s Beast had the support as did one other band who I forget. Venom would know. This was the night I met Venom, (who was then 14 years old and had massive long hair), and also his brother Peter Brown, who went on to become main lead guitarist and wailing backing vocalist in New England with Paul Blaze on vocals and Viper on Bass.

Archangel were another (whom Venom and I played with for a year before New England took shape). They had very catchy songs written by Mick Pickleby.

Lotus as well. Their guitarist, Sam had great riffs and s great sound and in Dale Bartley they had one of my favourite singers, who was another choice front man. The drummer from Lotus, Joe Zito also went to Homebush and used to jam with Fester and I in the early days. Yet to this day, Surrender (and front man Dave Crompton in particular) were the ultimate. Their self titled album from 1984 is equal to any Rainbow album, except ‘Rising’. Unfortunately my copy of the album vanished and I have not been able to get another copy. I listened to this album on a plane to America in 84 and have searched all over the internet to find a copy – no one seems to know of them. Their original name was Killer. Early 84 or late 83, Sunhak and I were at the Illinois Hotel at Five Dock for Thursday rock night to see Surrender, when some clown tipped water (not spilt), but TIPPED water on the mixing desk about three of four songs into their set and shut down the gig. We had specifically gone to see Dave Cromton. I recall that the Balmain Tigers player and tough guy  Kerry Hemsley was there. Not sure of the outcome but everyone was pissed off that the gig had finished abruptly.

(End of part 1 of the interview. To be continued!) Thanks go to Jed!! 

No part of this interview may be used without written permission of the author, Mr. Rockbrat.


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