Iconic Australian band ICEHOUSE recently released the Flowers Icehouse 30th Anniversary Edition and also White Heat: 30 Hits, which is a testament to how timeless the band’s music is, went gold after only two weeks. As well, in 2012 ICEHOUSE’s entire studio catalogue was reissued. Primitive Man and Man of Colours celebrate their 30th and 25th anniversaries respectively.
The band is promoting the two anniversary albums with its Primitive Colours tour, and ICEHOUSE frontman and mainstay, Iva Davies, is on the publicity circuit. He talks to FOCUS about getting the band back together and being on the road again …
Iva, ICEHOUSE was originally formed as Flowers in 1977 and has experienced numerous incarnations and a plethora of band members, with you remaining the mainstay of the band. Who else is in the Primitive Colours line up?
Many of the members have been together for a very long time: 27 years, 22 years, 17 years etc. So we are very old friends and certainly consider ourselves a team which has been together a long time. Even our tour manager, Larry, has been working with us and has been part of the team since 1985.
So the line up is Paul Gildea on lead guitar, Paul Wheeler on drums, Steve Bull on bass, Glenn Reither on keyboards and sax, and we have an incredible young musician from Melbourne who has been working with us for the last year on guitar and keyboards, Michael Pynter.
All the band are great singers, and Michael is even featured occasionally taking lead vocal parts, so they’re a very talented crew.
“On the road again … just can’t wait to get on the road again”… Unlike our friend Willie Nelson, some musicians can wait to get on the road again and dread the physical and emotional toll that can come with it. What’s your view on touring?
It’s true that touring is very strenuous and that it takes a toll on me both physically and mentally. However, luckily it’s not something we do week in week out, year in year out, so there’s still a lot of novelty to it, and the excitement that goes with that.
The fact is that because we’ve been together a long time, and because we are split between Melbourne and Sydney, it’s a bit of an occasion when we end up getting together. And, let’s face it, it’s a Rock and Roll band, and we are not only there to provide a good experience for the audience, but we’re also there to have a good time as well.
ICEHOUSE is renowned for having an uncompromising approach to music production, which was recognised by ARIA (the Australian Recording Industry Association) when it inducted the band into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2006. Production-wise, what do you refuse to cut corners on?
Well, as a priority it has always been the music for me, so we make sure that we have backup equipment, in case of breakdowns, a really skilled team of crew members for both audio and production and a really great lighting designer, who has the very latest in technology to play with.
The fact is that the band is only as good as both the members but also the crew, because they are the ones who insure that everything runs smoothly, so that we can perform the way we need to. Most people would be amazed at what goes on ‘behind the scenes’, as it were.
Performing in today’s environment is a very technologically sophisticated production, and we don’t cut corners on anything.
John Oates of Hall & Oates fame co-wrote Electric Blue, one of ICEHOUSE’S most renowned songs. Hall & Oates and ICEHOUSE are teaming up for a series of concerts across New Zealand and Australia; tell us about this?
We toured with Hall & Oates earlier this year, and it was great fun. I spent a lot of time hanging out with John, and he and his wife even came up to my house for a day to check out the local area and our little part of Australia.
Watching Hall & Oates live was a real blast, and we were side stage every single night listening to them play all those classic hits. You never tire of listening to really great songs, sung by wonderful singers.
You’ve enjoyed eight Top Ten albums plus 20 Top Forty singles in Australia … then there’s the multiple hits and successes in Europe and North America. Are there any new markets you’re hoping to crack with the Primitive Colours tour?
We are not touring this show outside of Australia this year. Part of the rebuilding process that has been going on over the last two years has been aimed at streamlining the band as a unit – in order to eventually get back to Europe firstly, and then perhaps the USA.
However, for the time being we are concentrating of building our recognition in Australia and New Zealand and getting the band into the best form possible.
Is the Primitive Colours tour bringing in a whole new audience for ICEHOUSE?
One of the things that we discovered during shows that we did last year and at the beginning of this year, is that we have a whole new audience of younger listeners. It’s a bit of a mystery as to why this is happening, but my theory is that because of new technologies like personal mp3 players and the internet, young audiences are accessing music that may have been first released decades ago through these technologies, in a way that my generation never could. It also seems that the ’80s, and the music that was produced in the ’80s is, for some reason, quite fashionable for a lot of young people.
So one of the things that we have in the back of our minds is that some of our younger audience will not have had the opportunity to see the band as a live performing unit before, and I get the impression from the feedback so far that many are surprised by the energy that the band has in concert.
So I suppose the short answer to the question is that while still performing to our established audience, we are finding a new younger audience as well.
Anything you’d like to say to your legion of diehard fans out there?
I think diehard fans will enjoy hearing some of the songs from these two albums, which haven’t been played by the band for a very long time – some of them for 30 years.
At the same time, it’s obvious to see how much the band is also enjoying that experience – the experience of playing those songs and how they work as live entities.
Thank you Iva. Interview by Karen Farrell.
This story was published in issue 68 of the Manning-Great Lakes Focus