As fans of Australian hard rock in the 1980s, Scott Ginn was a guy who was always on our rock n roll radar. From his time fronting The Breakers, to Boss, and onto Rags ‘n’ Riches – Scott was a multi-talented musician who wore many hats –including songwriter, guitar player, vocalist, producer and engineer. He released a way underappreciated solo album in 1986 called ‘One Man Army’, and had the cream of Sydney’s 1980s heavy rock bands record at his own studious, Montreux. As a songwriter, he had the knack of being able to craft memorable and catchy hard rock with a penchant for melody, and as a front man, the flamboyance of David Lee Roth. After more than 20 years in the musical wilderness, Scott has a new band/solo project called MAZZ-XT, who have released their debut album ‘At The Brink Of Eternity’. Read on as we chat to Scott and chronicle his entire rock n roll history – past present and future. (Scott interviewed by Cowboy Col, June 2016. All images (c) S. Ginn)
RB: Scott, welcome to the Rockbrat Blog!
SG: Thanks Colin, nice to be be back in the rock ‘n’ roll saddle.
RB: Let’s begin by looking at your formative years if we may. I know that BOSS had its origins in Adelaide with both Craig Csongrady and Laurie Marlow both hailing from there, and the band assembled in Sydney, were you from Sydney?
SG: Born in England, and moved to Australia with my family when I was 6 years old. I’ve been a Sydney boy all my life. I mostly grew up around the Lane Cove area.
RB: How old were you when you started getting into rock ‘n’ roll and who were your musical influences?
SG: I guess my first exposure to rock ‘n’ roll would have been around the age of 11. My folks had the Beatles ‘Hard Days Night’ album. I would have friends over and we’d mime with air guitars and cardboard boxes for drums acting out the tunes in our lounge room.
My early main influences came once I started buying LPs. My primary influences were Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath, with a bit of Grand Funk and Creedence Clearwater somewhere in the mix. My later influences were AC/DC, Van Halen, Aerosmith and Free/Bad Company.
RB: Were you from a musical family, and if so, were you encouraged to take lessons?
SG: I played the flute in primary school. My dad played classical piano, but I was never encouraged to take lessons. I was in my second year of high school and I secretly got myself an afternoon job at a musical warehouse in St Leonards packing instruments and saved enough money to buy my first guitar from there. I can’t remember what brand it was but it was a sunburst semi-acoustic electric. I surprised my folks and told them that I had saved this money for a guitar, and took them up there to make the purchase. The warehouse was having a sale, and we ended up walking out with the guitar, an electric organ for my dad, and a set of drums. We were living in a unit at the time, so the drums lasted about two months before I gave them the flick to sell them so I could buy an amp and better guitar.
RB: What was the first record you ever bought?
SG: The first singles I had were bubblegum pop songs – The Monkees – Last Train to Clarkesville, The Ohio Express – Yummy Yummy Yummy. I still have those singles! The first real rock LP I bought was Rod Stewart’s – Every Picture tells a story, followed closely by Deep Purple – Fireball.
RB: First concert you saw?
SG: The day when my world changed was 27th February 1972, when I saw my first real concert – Led Zeppelin at the Sydney Showgrounds. That concert had a profound effect on me and left me in no doubt that I wanted to play in a rock band as a career. It was the first, and still remains the best concert I ever saw. I feel very privileged to have seen Zeppelin when they were at their performance best.
RB: What was your first band?
SG: My first band went through a number of phases, names and lineups but was essentially called Hedgehog. The first song we ever played together was Creedence Clearwater’s ‘Proud Mary’. I played rhythm guitar and we shared lead vocal duties between all the band. We mostly played covers, but even back then we had started writing and playing original songs. We’d play parties, dances and local town hall gigs which were the best gigs to see local bands that we looked up to like Buffalo, Hush and Finch.
I then formed a band called Thor with John Hamilton (Jenny Morris Band) and his brother Rob. We were influenced by Sabbath and Buffalo. We wrote some original material which I guess you’d classify as Stoner Rock.
RB: You first came to prominence as front man for the Breakers, a band put together by Jimmy Manzie of OL’ 55. How did you end up joining The Breakers?
SG: I was singing in a band called Class who were well established on the pub rock circuit. I had joined them when (the late) Gary Conlan had left to join Feather. It was such a healthy live scene back then, we’d often play 6 nights a week, and do a double on a Saturday. I think I was pretty much head-hunted by the Breakers. I was approached and told about this new power pop band that ex-members of Ol’55 Jim and Spud were forming. There was already a record deal in the works with Seven Records (later Powderworks Records), and they were looking for a lead singer. I recorded some demos at Jim’s home studio, and was offered the gig. When I left Class to join the Breakers Gary rejoined Class for a while.
RB: Did The Breakers play any large supports and outside of Sydney? Was there ever more Breakers material recorded other than the7” single, “When I’m on TV”?
SG: The main one that comes to mind was a support at the Capitol Theatre to the B-52s. It was a weird one too because the original support act had cancelled for some reason, and we literally got a day’s notice to do the gig as in – Booking Agent: “the other band had to cancel, do you want to do the gig tonight?” Us: Ahh yeah we sure do.” So no-one knew we were doing the show. When the lights went down and the announcer introduced the band, it was greeted with boo’s because they were expecting the other band. Our show started with our lead guitarist Jarryl Wirth going on stage and doing this full-on Angus Young-like guitar solo complete with writhing around on the ground. Jarryl went out by himself to this boo-ing audience and stuck it to them. We were peeking around the curtain thinking he was gonna get hammered by the audience, but he turned them around and the rest of the gig went down pretty well.
At the time, INXS were also just starting to play the pub circuit, and we did a few shows with them too. The Breakers toured throughout NSW as well as Victoria and South Australia.
On the recording side, there was more than an album’s worth of material recorded as demos. Originally the planned first single was a song called ‘Night after Night’ – a brilliant Manzie pop song with a great chorus. It was never released. Then it was decided that ‘When I’m On TV’ would be the first single, and that’s the way it went with the B-side being ‘Lipstick and Leather’ which Jim did the Lead Vocal on. The second single was also recorded but never released – a song called ‘The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes’ which featured an amazing Bohemian Rhapsody-like middle-eight.
RB: The Breakers appeared on Countdown in 1980 and famously, also appeared performing ‘Lipstick and Leather’ in Puberty Blues’. What are your memories of those experiences? It must have been a blast to be performing on Countdown and potentially going into every living room in Australia.
SG: Yeah, great memories! There were actually two songs that appear in the Puberty Blues movie – ‘Lipstick and Leather ‘and ‘The Girl with Stars In Her Eyes’. The scene clips are truncated so you don’t really get to hear the whole song unfortunately. For the scenes that we were playing in, it was filmed at the Caringbah Inn – a great live venue back in the day. For our part, we just had to do what we do – like a normal live show, and that was set as the background to the main action of the actors being out at their local rock pub.
Countdown was indeed a blast. And that first one I was pretty young – so it was very exciting. I did it again with The Richard Wilde (aka Richard Wilkins) Band too.
The thing is it all happens so quickly that you hardly have time to take it all in and process. I only recently got hold of a video of the performance from the ABC and it was surreal seeing it back, as I had never seen it as a viewer, and the recollection of it had faded into distant memory. We also made a proper video for ‘When I’m On TV’. From what I can remember it was pretty cool with TVs being smashed with guitars. Sadly all trace of that video has vanished into the ether.
RB: So after The Breakers, I understand that you also toured with Cheetah in 1981 as a guitar player? Was that a tour of Australia, or was it internationally? (The band played Reading in 1982). Rock ‘n’ Roll Women still stacks up as a great hard rock album (which incidentally features another Australian great, drummer Ray Arnott).
SG: Before doing the Cheetah tour there was my original band Montreux – pure hard rock (there’s a bunch of recordings in existence of Montreux material too). But yep, this was a national tour to promote the ‘Rock N Roll Women’ album. I played guitar and did backing vocals. The Hammond girls are incredible singers and it was great to play in a band behind such strong vocalists. As you said, the songs on the ‘Rock N Roll Women’ album were great, and much fun to play. It was a great opportunity to work with some great musos. The band was myself and The Doc from my old band Montreux on guitars, Mark Evans on bass, John Lalor from Dallimore on drums and Martin Fisher from the Breakers on keyboards.
RB: Also around this period you worked as guitarist and musical arranger for Richard Wilde (aka Richard Wilkins) in 1982, is that correct?
SG: I can’t remember exactly how it came about, but there was sort of a family unit that meant we were all moving in the same circles, because I was doing Montreux on and off, Richard was co-managing Boss, and I was occasionally doing front of house sound for Boss. Richard was preparing to launch his solo career, following on from his band Wilde and Reckless. So we got talking about music and I got hired to play guitar and do backing vocals and had a big role in selecting and arranging the material for the live shows. We even did a couple of Montreux numbers in the live set (albeit somewhat ‘popped’ up). Richard released the single ‘Young Heroes’ and we performed that on Countdown. We launched the band with a national tour as the support act to Grace Jones, and then toured the band extensively through NSW in its own right.
RB: How did you come to join Boss, and what are your fondest memories of your time with the band? Do any gigs or recordings you did with the band standout for you?
SG: Prior to Boss, I had formed my first real hard rock outfit – Montreux. Montreux went through several incarnations, but was a seriously kick-ass hard rock band with a lot of original material and influences mostly from AC/DC and UFO. So we were sort of in healthy competition to Boss. We were playing around the same pub circuit as the early lineups of Boss, so I got to know the lads, and when I had a period of Montreux being on hold, I was sometimes doing front of house sound for Boss. As it turned out, we (my missus and I) were living in and caretaking an old terrace house in Paddington that had been converted into small flats. I got Kevin and Peter into a flat upstairs from us. So we were literally living on each others doorsteps. I think I had helped out with some backing vocals on a demo for Boss, and after that at some point I got asked if I wanted to play bass for the band. I wasn’t a bass player by trade, having always played guitar in bands, although I’d played bass on my own recordings, but I knew what they needed to suit the band’s style and knew I could do that. So it was a case of if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. And in hindsight, it was a good move, because Boss developed to another level in the period that followed. I suppose the song I’m personally proudest of is ‘Hard N Fast’ because it’s one that I largely wrote. Originally it was a straight upbeat number, but when it got swung on its head in the recording studio and turned into a half-time slobber-knocker for the album it took on a new life and became one of the ballsiest songs with real shades of Zeppelin to it. The other song that stands out for me is ‘Behind the Bar’ which we used to open with at live shows. There was such a raw energy with that song. I recently resurrected some old live footage of the band and matched it up with the only studio recording of that song.
I wish I’d kept a diary, because we did a lot of gigs with Boss and the memory of a lot of them has faded. But the Bondi Astra, Selina’s Coogee Bay Hotel, Chevron at the Cross, Blacktown RSL gigs were always standouts. The thing with Boss was that there was never a half-assed show. It was always pedal to the metal, turn it up loud and deliver with the force of a hurricane.
RB: 1984 and 1985 were stellar years for the band. You must have great memories of that time. What was it like to support Iron Maiden nationally – Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Canberra, Wollongong ?
Well these were undoubtedly the best of days for Boss. Not only did it lift the profile of the band, it put us out there as real contenders in the world of hard rock. It put us on the big stage. It was actually pretty humbling to walk on stage as a support act to Maiden and have the punters pack the front of stage (usually reserved for the main act) and absolutely go off with the band.
RB: Any memories of the support slots with Leppard and Twisted Sister stand out?
SG: Absolutely! The Twisted Sister band members were really great down to earth guys, and were really supportive of us as a support act. There was a pretty funny scene in Melbourne, where I was outside the back of the venue with the TS bass player before the gig having a chin wag, and of course he didn’t have makeup on. A fan came up to us that must have known me from Boss and started having a chat, and they didn’t even know that the bloke that was with me was from Twisted Sister. Funny as… ain’t anonymity grand???
As much as the Maiden tour was a greater overall fulfillment for the band, I still rate the Def Leppard show at Selinas as the best show Boss ever did. Simply because it was just one of those moments in time. Leppard were on the rise and just breaking through big time. We were so excited to score the support. We were the second band on, with Leppard to follow us. Selinas was packed to the rafters with some 3000 punters. We were stoked just to be playing the gig, but as the lights went down and we were waiting backstage to go on, a chant went up from the audience “Boss. Boss. Boss” and we’re completely blown out …. “Hey they’re calling for us”. Wow… We had come of age. Kick-ass gig and then the Leps delivered a classic hard rock show (pre all the fancy stuff) that rocked the house down. They were great guys to just chat about stuff backstage after the show.
RB: You were also managing Boss is that right? Doing bookings etc? Taking care of some of the business side of things?
I wouldn’t say I was managing the band. It’s true we were self-managed at that stage, but the duties were shared between Craig and myself. Craig would look after the business negotiations with record companies etc, we’d both look after the bookings side of things, and my role was mostly a tour manager role, looking after all the crew, supports, PA’s and lights.
RB: The ‘Step On It’ album is arguably the best heavy rock album to come out of Australia in the 1980s, (forgetting Mortal Sin for a moment) – certainly in the first half of that decade anyway. So many great tunes – Kick Ass Rock n roll, Dancing Queen, That Woman, Cry Cry – and my favourite tune ‘Strange games’ – I mean, as good as any heavy rock album internationally. When the album was recorded and in the can, did the band consider that musically you had a very strong product that would push the band to the next level?
SG: There are two answers to this question.
- On a musical level – yes we were pleased with what we had created. And the thing with heavy rock bands in Australia (particularly at that time) was that we didn’t even see our songs as something for a local market – our competition was the world market and especially what was starting to happen in the States. So we were certainly aiming to produce something world-class.
- On a production level – no we were not happy with the final product.
It’s great to get such positive feedback as yours about the album, which means that not everyone hears what we hear. For the band, we were not happy with the final mix. For me, it will remain one of the unanswered mysteries of the world of what it could have or should have sounded like, perhaps had it been in the hands of an experienced rock engineer like a Kevin Shirley or a producer like Mutt Lange.
RB: For many of us who were heavy rock fans in the mid 80s, we thought bands like BOSS and Heaven in particular were both world class, and should have gone on to bigger things internationally. Yet there was almost like an inferiority complex kind of mentality back then, people assumed that if something came from America it had to be better than the Australian product. Do you agree with that?
SG: I guess it depends on which ‘people’ you are talking about. I don’t think there was inferiority coming from the bands themselves nor as you’ve said from fans. Perhaps the prevalence of the Aussie fighting spirit is more apt. Aussie bands tended to fight much harder for their success. The pub circuit allowed bands to harden their live performance. Certainly Oz metal bands looked to the States and the UK for where the bar was being set, and would strive to be as good as if not better than what was going on there. The problem for Aussie bands was that here we were in a smaller niche market down under, and where it was really happening for this sort of music was in overseas markets especially in LA. The Australian record industry was simply not geared for the world hard rock market except to be a distribution outpost for the already established brands from overseas. So in that sense, again not inferiority, but it was simply easier (read lazier) for record companies to flog the established artists than actually develop local hard rock artists. Alberts was probably the only label that understood harder-edged rock music.
RB: With that in mind, retrospectively, was there a Sydney (or Australian even) heavy rock band that you thought should have made it but didn’t? For me growing up in that period, the obvious ones were Boss and not withstanding Heaven’s limited success in the States, I think bands like Tough Luxury, Surrender, Bengal Tigers, Assassin, Lightning Rock etc all had the goods. Thoughts?
SG: I would say that had any of these bands been based in LA in the mid ‘80s rather than locally, they would have stood a much greater chance of bigger success than what they achieved here. Simply because that is where it was all happening at the time – therefore a bigger market and a scene and industry that understood the style of music. Heaven proved that ‘being there rather than here’ has its advantages.
Other Aussie bands that should have made it bigger than they did – Dallimore – great songs, great guitarist and singer, great band; The Poor – could have been as big as Airbourne in the right time and place; and my good mates Bronx/ Big Deal – great band, great songs, great guys. As for Boss, – when the ‘Step on it’ album secured a world-wide release, there should have been record company support to get the band touring in any number of those markets. A missed opportunity.
RB: Heavy rock and metal were very much on the fringe in Australia and almost underground. (Pre 1986 and Bon Jovi’s ‘Slippery When Wet’ which opened the floodgates to commercial hard rock on a grand scale), so was the mission statement for BOSS always pitching internationally ‘cos the metal market in Australia at that time was so limited?
SG: I suppose I’ve pre-empted this question in my previous answer. Easy to look back in hindsight, but the thing that attracted me to Boss was that it was born out of the classic local Oz Hard Rock sound – AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, The Angels. But the music we were listening to and striving to compete with was the overseas bands – the likes of Def Leppard, Van Halen, Ratt, Dokken, Aerosmith, Motley Crue etc. And we knew that the metal market in Australia was a small but dedicated underground scene. So yes, clearly for Boss it was the aim to break internationally to a broader market. The subsequent success of Corporate Rock (ugly term for commercially successful) with bands like Bon Jovi, Foreigner, and even the Mutt Lange produced Def Leppard, and then the big power ballads of Aerosmith and Whitesnake really lifted the profile and mainstream acceptability of hard rock. I guess some of that influence shows through in a song like ‘Cry, Cry’.
RB: Were their plans for Boss outside of Australia. I used to have a Japanese pressing of ‘Step On It’. The band would have gone down great in Japan.
SG: With a worldwide release for ‘Step on it’ the band should have been jetting off to promote these markets with live shows and tours. I would have loved to tour in Japan. But we never got that financial support from the record company. Maybe if we’d secured a powerful management deal the story might have been different.
RB: So why did you leave Boss, and what was your next project post Boss. Was it putting together your solo album ‘One Man Army’?
SG: For me this is the only sour note in what was otherwise a great journey with Boss. I was told my services were no longer required and was never really given a satisfactory reason for that decision. But life moves on, and you live and learn from these experiences.
Actually the next project after Boss was a progressive rock outfit called Future Force which I joined as lead singer. It was a really tight band with all the material written by Ace (sorry can’t remember his last name) – a great guitarist. We did quite a few shows around Sydney (including supports to Midnight Oil and Rose Tattoo). The songs were pretty technical and were very challenging vocally, so it really upped my game in terms of lead vocals.
The upside of the bad experiences that we’d had in Boss with the recording process in a big recording studio, really drove me to exploring production and engineering techniques and growing my home studio into something that could produce high quality hard rock recordings from a smaller studio. That frustration manifested as the ‘One Man Army’ album.
RB: There are some super melodic and catchy hard rock tunes on the One Man Army LP, stuff like ‘Torment in Tehran, Watching The Lines Go Down’ etc. The album was released on your own label, how well did the album do? Did you have distribution for it?
With the ‘One Man Army’ album I did this literally as a one man army in every sense. It was a solo album that I performed everything on it (bar the percussion overdubs done by Slim McDermott), I produced and engineered the album, I oversaw the manufacture of the pressings, and I distributed the records to local record stores myself or sold the record at gigs – a total independent. The net result was that I produced a record that I am very proud of and that sounds the way I think it should sound and competed in production quality with anything that was going at the time. Commercially, well when you do it this way it’s a small niche market, so all those loyal fans who still have a copy – hang on to them because they are quite collectable now. A few years ago I cleared out my garage and threw away the last 50 copies thinking no-one plays vinyl anymore and are not interested in this music any more. That was dumb of me. I’ve had a number of requests recently asking if there are any copies still around.
RB: I remember picking up ‘One Man Army’ when it came out and was floored by the calibre of so many great, melodic, hard rock tunes. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this long out of print album is soon to get a get a re-release to commemorate its 30th anniversary?
SG: Yep, that’s right – 1986 to 2016. Bloody hell 30 years ago! So since ‘One Man Army’ was never released on CD I thought I’d re-release it in this format to mark the Anniversary. I’ve remastered it and added a couple of bonus tracks of unreleased material from the same period. There’s all new artwork for the cover but it also contains scans of the original cover. Production will happen shortly and it should be out in the second half of 2016.
RB: Again, a timeline question. Was there a cross over period between the One Man Army period and when you put together Rags N Riches?
SG: Rags basically grew out of the touring band I’d put together to promote the ‘One Man Army’ album. Whilst the One Man Army Tour was predominantly about playing my material from the album, we eventually started to write new songs as a band and I felt that what we would do from there on would be better represented as a band, rather than me as a solo artist with hired players. The first lineup of Rags N Riches was Phil Bowley – guitar, John Dovico – bass, Jimmy Yannieh – drums and myself – lead vocals. Later Kristian Hodgson joined the band on keyboards, and Jason McDonald replaced Jimmy on drums. Glen Farina joined as lead guitarist when Phil left to join the Candy Harlots.
RB: What can you tell folks about ‘Rags N Riches’? From my memory, I recall the band playing great, original hard rock tunes with were very melodic, almost Van Halenesque. Is that the direction you were going for?
SG: I think we coined the term ‘Rag n Roll’ to describe our music. Well we were right in the thick of the Hair Metal era and the thing with Rags music was that it was good time escape music. It was party music. We wanted our fans to escape the boredom of 9-5 and let their hair down and have a good time. Musically, yep there was definitely the influence of Van Halen, and also Aerosmith – especially the use of brass in the arrangements like what Aerosmith had started to do. Naturally we all have influences, but we were certainly trying to develop a uniqueness to the sound of Rags rather than follow the sound trend of what was going on at the time. I guess I’ve always tried to explore new boundaries rather than follow trends. Whether that’s been a plus or minus in terms of success I’m not sure, but I have always been an an advocate of making the music that comes out of you naturally, not ‘cos it’s the latest trend to follow.
RB: Now of course Phil Bowley was the guitar player in the band, (who went onto the Candy Harlots – a band I saw many times, albeit almost exclusively the Mark Easton line up). Did you know Phil him from his days in Shy Thunder on the Sydney circuit?
SG: Yes I knew Phil from Shy Thunder and White Widow. So it was great timing for both of us that he was looking for a new gig at the time when the ‘One Man Army’ album came out. We also struck up a really good relationship writing new material together. I felt like I had lost a brother when he left to join the Harlots, but I understood the move perhaps better than anybody because I’d been in a similar situation when I joined the Breakers, and the Harlots were on the rise and in a stronger position with their live following than Rags.
RB: Some of the Rags n Riches tunes I recall are ‘Dance Baby Dance’, Shipwrecked Out On The Street’, and ‘Money Can’t Change Your Mind’, and the band used to play a lot of material from your solo album. The band was certainly prolific on the Sydney live scene in the late 80s, did the band play outside of Sydney or do any bigger supports?
SG: We worked hard in the Sydney Pub Circuit, also the Newcastle area both headlining and sometimes doing supports. We’d often hop on a bill with the tribute bands like Gold Zeppelin and Dynasty – the Kiss show, to grow the Rags following. At it’s highest point we headlined our own shows at Selina’s. The band had an alter-ego – the 5150 Oz Van Halen Show – which was a full-blown tribute show, which helped to pay the bills and up the profile of the band.
RB: I understand that Rags n Riches recorded material for an album called ‘Shipwrecked Out In The Street’, yet that was shelved and never saw the light of day. The good news is that after all these years the album will soon be released?
SG: Yes that’s right! And this is an exciting prospect for me. The ‘Shipwrecked’ album is very much unfinished business for me. At the time, our manager was shopping for potential labels for the album. The material was all recorded at my Montreux studios and ready to go. We even had a record launch promo night (I found an old newspaper clipping promoting it). For the life of me, I have no idea why the thing was never released. Perhaps we should have just bitten the bullet and sunk some money into getting it pressed ourselves. Perhaps it also marked the point where I got disillusioned by the whole thing and walked away from the rock scene. Anyhow, that’s water under the bridge now, and the good news is that I’ve remastered all the Shipwrecked tracks and added a few more tracks to better balance the album and it will also be released as a limited edition CD during 2016. It’s sounding way powerful and is also pretty close to going to production. So I can’t wait for folks to finally hear these tracks. The material on this album is really representative of the ‘Rag ‘N Roll’ sound that we had developed. Phil and Glen’s lead guitar work is outstanding. JayDee’s bass is rock solid, Kris did some excellent keyboard/ brass lines and Jimmy’s drum work is thunderous. The only disappointment to me is that we never recorded anything with Jason McDonald on drums who joined the band after most of these recordings had been done and played a lot of live gigs with the band. There’s a couple of tracks that I played rhythm guitar on, and vocally I guess this was when I was at the top of my game. We’ll see how this one goes, but there is another whole album of what I’d called the heavier stuff that the Rags recorded, which might see the light of day further down the track.
RB: I was living at Gladesville in the late 80s and saw Rags n Riches a bunch of times, particularly at the Gladesville Hotel. My main memory of the band live was that it was fun, good time melodic hard rock. That style of rock n roll was king – it was on TV, the radio, everywhere. I thought those days would last forever and like many others, never saw the tsunami-size change coming to the musical landscape in the early 90s that signified the end of those halcyon days of hard rock.
SG: I share exactly the same memories. Those gigs were one big party and we just happened to be the ones on the stage providing the ‘licence to party’. They were indeed the best of days. And yes, then came the trainwreck that was the mid 90s. And all the music got sooo serious and all the songs are about how bad life is and how depressing the world is. Well so it may be, we all have crap going on in our lives but when people go out they want to escape from their troubles, not hear about them. That’s why the 80s-90s era of rock/metal was so much escapist fun and Rags N Riches was definitely about having a good time.
RB: Did you have a favourite Sydney venue and why?
SG: Back in the early days, the Bondi Lifesaver was THE place to see bands. It was so rock ‘n’ roll.
From a performer perspective there was quite a few. Selinas, in either its larger or smaller venue format was always great. The one you mentioned – The Bayview Tavern at Gladesville always got a good turnout and had a great atmosphere. The Seven Hills Inn was really the centre for the early years of the metal resurgence, so fond memories of that room, and later on The Kardomah in Kings Cross was wild with its late night slots.
RB: In the mid 80s you set up your own studio and label, Montreux Records. Your studio in particular became a bit of a focus for many Sydney hard rock / metal bands. Was this your intent to make it a centre for Sydney metal bands?
SG: It’s funny, because I had really got into recording when I was about 20 – I went halves on a TEAC 4-track reel to reel with a mate. Initially Montreux studios sort of just evolved out of me acquiring more home studio gear for my own recordings. But then I just started doing demos for other bands and it went on from there. My plan back then was that running a studio would be what I would do after I’d finished playing in bands. As it turned out, I ended up running it as a proper studio whilst I was still playing. For a while I had the studio installed at Party Pig Studios at Girraween, and through the rehearsal studios there I got quite a bit of work recording the local hard rock and metal bands. It seemed to work well because I understood the music the bands were playing and knew the sort of sound they were after. I guess in that period it did become a bit of a centre for metal as the bands would come to my studio because they knew I would pull the sound they wanted.
RB: As I mentioned, your solo album came out on your own label Montreux Records, did the label release product by any other artists as well?
SG: No, the Montreux label was only for release of my own stuff.
RB: Now I know you also did production and engineering work. You produced the Tough Luxury album ‘Streetwise’ (which I note has just been re issued on CD). Can you tell us about any of the other bands that you produced, engineered or worked with? Bronx? Roxx? Starlet?
SG: Yep, I did the Tough Luxury LP ‘Streetwise’. The lads sent me copy of the reissue CD and it sounds really good. I did the cult classic metal album by Massive Appendage – ‘The Severed Erection’ album – that was quite a production extravaganza. I did some singles for their alter ego power pop band Kings Cross. Wayne Campbell’s band Grungeon recorded an EP with me. And yes, quite a few of the rock bands of our era – Roxx, Bronx, Starlet, QVs, Assassin, Fetish to name a few recorded demos at Montreux Studios.
RB: Some readers may also remember you as front man for Van Halen tribute band 5150. A lot of fun! Did you also used to front a Zeppelin cover band?
SG: Ha… Yeah the 5150 Oz Van Halen Show – was a full production tribute show. A lot of fun?….. How about three times the fun in half the time!!! This show was the most fun I ever had playing live. Characterizing David Lee Roth was like being given a licence to be outrageous. The wilder it was the better people liked it. It was a great vehicle to supplement our work as Rags N Riches. Same band – different show.
Zeppelin are undeniably my all-time favourite band but no I never fronted a Zeppelin show. But I’ve played quite a few of their numbers in bands over the years.
RB: In the mid to late 80s you were playing and gigging regularly. 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 halcyon days the mid to late 80s, do you look back fondly on those days and if you had your time over, is there anything you would have done differently?
SG: You’re 100% right, that era was the absolute heyday of gigging. The pressures of loud music restrictions for pubs near urban housing, the shift in the type of venues where younger kids go out to meet (e.g. Dance parties etc), the loss of real development shows for bands like Countdown, Sounds and MTV have all contributed to the changing face of what’s left of the live scene. Back then if you were in a band, you were in that band and that’s it – nowadays musicians are playing in multiple different bands to make a decent living from live work. There are still some awesome bands out there playing live, but it seems to be much harder to motivate people to go out to see live bands and develop a new breed of young and dedicated followers like what existed in the ‘80s.
Anything I would have done differently……maybe I would have worn earplugs so that the hearing damage was minimised, and had I more financial resources at the time, I should have up and awayed to England with the One Man Army band when I was getting great feed back for the album.
RB: The early 90s saw the demise of the hard rock / heavy rock era, which put a lot of us in the musical wilderness. When did you decide that the writing was on the wall and it was time to do something else? You pursued a career in science is that correct?
I think it was about ‘93-’94. We’d finished doing the 5150 show, and were struggling to get Rags to where I wanted it to be. It was kind of weird, because I just stopped. No farewell shows, I just said I’ve had enough. I think I’d put some sort of a vague timer on myself as well like reaching age 35, and that was it. Some bands can be like a bad marriage but Rags N Riches / 5150 was a really pro unit – it was a great team environment. I did feel like a professional sportsman knowing when the right time to retire is, and I did feel I wanted to stop on a good note and that was certainly true of what we’d achieved with this band. I didn’t want to end up playing in some broken down old hotel to a man and his dog, so I quit while I was ahead. I kept the recording studio gear but soon after stopped writing new material as I had no purpose or motivation. I stopped going to gigs because I was sick of answering the question – “what are you doing now?” and the answer was “well nothing, I’ve quit music, end of story”. I’d also done courier work for a long time which was a great job because you were a sub-contractor and it allowed me to go away on tours and still have a job when I came back. But I got to the point where I started thinking do I want to do this for another 20 years, and the answer was no. So I walked from that too – I’d had enough. I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I’d had an interest in insects as a kid, and my family encouraged me to do something with that. So I went to university as a mature age student and did a Science Degree graduating with Ist Class Honours specialising in Entomology (the study of insects). That got me a job at the Australian Museum in the Entomology department. I’m now in the museum’s DNA Lab where I look after the Frozen Tissue Collection which is used for the museum’s genetic research on all sorts of animals.
RB: After several years away from the music industry, you released an album late last year under the moniker of MAZZ-XT, firstly, congratulations on its release! I for one am pleasantly surprised to hear new music from Scott Ginn. You have always had a great rock voice and it’s great to hear it again! (Readers please note that we intend to do a track by track review and interview with Scott which will appear on The Australian Rock Show. So stay tuned for that). What is the origin behind the MAZZ-XT name?
SG: Thanks Colin, and I’m glad to be back making music. It’s something that I didn’t think I would do again.
I was brainstorming band names for the project and I had written down a long list of ‘possibles’. But in the modern world with the advent of online presence, I’d start googling all these names that I’d thought of, and of course there was already a band called this or that. So that wasn’t working for me. One of the names was ‘Mass Extinction’ but that had been used as well. I kind of liked this one because it had a double meaning to me – in reference to a literal mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs (my museum influence) and it also represented a tongue-in-cheek reference to the mass extinction event (the 90s music we talked about earlier) that wiped out the dinosaurs of rock music. So playing around with the spelling and abbreviating it I modified ‘Mass Extinction’ to ‘Mazz-XT’ (pronounced maz-exx-tee) which was a unique name that had not been used anywhere else. From that came the title of the album and title track “At the brink of eternity” being the moment in time before the imminent impact of a giant meteor on the earth which causes a mass extinction event….. Or perhaps it’s the moment before there was a changing of the guard in the world of rock music???? Make of it what you will.
RB: The MAZZ-XT album, ‘At The Brink Of Eternity’ is a fantastic album of well crafted, hard rock tunes. What can you tell us about the project, and your first new recorded material in over 20 years?
SG: After I stopped playing music, I got really interested in action video games – not so much playing them but building them. My sons play lots of games, and I was drawn into the process of how they were made. For the last 13 years I have been building and releasing custom level games in the Tomb Raider community under the nik ‘EssGee’. For these games I started getting interested in making the ambience and action scene music for the games. So I invested in some software to produce music for the games. These are small mood music interludes written and played on keyboard – some are short 10 second things, other are 1-2 minute pieces. They started turning out pretty good, and I got curious as to whether I could record a decent rock song using this software. The first song I recorded was an early version of the opening album track “Spellbound”. I was so vibed with how it was sounding that it opened the creative floodgates and maybe what had been bottled up inside me for 20 years just came flowing out, so before long I had an album of songs.
RB: In reference to the ‘At The Brink Of Eternity’ album, I read somewhere where you stated. “The new songs are influenced by music from the past – but have a modern edge.” I agree with that wholeheartedly. The songs may have a foundation in 80’s hard rock, but much of the material has a progressive edge, and could almost be interpreted as a concept album. Such is the calibre of the songs, musically, thematically and lyrically.
SG: Wow! I’m so glad that that does come through in the music. It was a very empowering experience just being able to write what I felt rather than feeling the need to write to a particular style because of what is the current trend. Lyrically some of it is a departure from the good times lyrics of Rags n Riches, drawing from a bunch of more recent life experiences. But even though there are some more serious subjects broached, I always try to stay positive in my outlook about things. I’m really pleased with how the album has turned out and I think it truly representative of what my music is about.
RB: Do you have plans to get out and gig again? Particularly in light of the reissue of ‘One Man Army’ and the soon to be released Rags N Riches album ‘Shipwrecked Out On The Streets’.
SG: Good question, and this is where I get to write my own rules. I will never say never again (although I did in the 90’s – ha!). I would very much like to perform live again with this new material and the Rags and One Man Army stuff, but I won’t do it unless there is a demand there for it. Back in the day we would develop a live following first and then hopefully follow that up with release material. Nowadays for me, as essentially a recording artist, it’s the other way around – my passion is to write and record songs. I’ll continue to do that for as long as the ideas keep on coming. It’s something I love doing. If I build a following through my recordings, then backing that up with live performance is definitely on. So if fans want live shows they will need to show their support through the recorded material first. Like we talked about earlier, the music scene has changed dramatically and musicians have got to come up with new ways to to get their music to the people that want to hear it. Crowd-funding is a good example of this. For me, I don’t need this, I can produce my own albums, I just need people to listen to it and show their support by buying an album or two. (Readers: Click here and show Scott your support by picking up his album – ED)
RB: Thanks very much for your time Scott. If readers want to check out the MAZZ-XT album, they can head to the links below.
SG: Cheers Colin, it’s been good fun recollecting some of these memories. Thanks for that. Scott outta here!
Mazz-XT Music Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSkvjigiH0ELdrOETPhGEpw