Thirty years on, iconic Aussie rock band Mental as Anything continues to create the type of music that memories are made of.
> The band originally formed in the late ‘70s at an art school. How did you become part of the band?
I was introduced to the band via the art school in 1976, but I was in a band called the ‘Capsicums’ at the time, but I think we only ever played once or twice.
I was asked to come and sit in on one of the rehearsals and to play harmonica. But after rehearsal, the guys said there was no real opportunity to play the harmonica for a couple of songs.
So they set me up on an old, vintage, second hand wedding organ recorder that we found in the paper classifieds. I had a play around with it, and that is how I came to be in the band. I do a bit of singing in the band too, like on ‘Live it Up’.
> Described as a “real typical Aussie Band”, what is your take on this perspective?
I think we are a typical Aussie band because we focus on the things that we have experienced ourselves, and we channel the Australian suburbs, so that makes us seem so Aussie.
Also, we have been playing for 30 years non stop, with the exception of six weeks when I was injured coming off a horse. We have played an awful lot for a long time … anywhere in the country, on any given weekend.
> How did your nickname ‘Greedy’ come to be? You all have peculiar nicknames … ‘Yoga Dog’… ‘Bird’… ‘Martin Plaza’…
Oh, it’s so silly! I ate too much chicken once upon a time. I had a bucket of chicken that I was eating while playing one night … I ended up eating like fifteen pieces. It was a long time ago, but the name has just stuck. The harmonica was filled up with chicken grease that night.
The nicknames, like ‘Greedy’ and ‘Bird’ all just came about after long hours of playing and being together … they never changed either. There is even a nickname for one of the members: ‘Dorky Bladder’. Strange!
> What do you think is the key to being a good songwriter?
I think you should always start with inspiration. Getting the right tones for the song. Working that in well with the music … also, I think boredom has a lot to do with it! You have to sit down and be able to have the time to work it out in a head that is totally empty.
> What’s something you’re looking forward to?
We are doing a tour with the ‘B52s’ and ‘The Complainers’ who sang ‘500 Miles’ all around the wineries of SA soon, so that should be great.
> The band’s had a lot of lineup changes with members over the years. Why you do think the spirit of Mental as Anything still lives on?
It’s only been in the past ten years that we have had some major changes. I think we have stayed together because when we first started we didn’t have much competition. The culture was to go and see a band and if they were good, they were good.
These days, there are surveys about what people want … people have music videos to think about and images. We were around before all of that, so I think that is imprinted into their minds … we are the music they grew up on. Now we can go around Australia, and somebody will know our songs.
> What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
Um … I would say Number 3 in the UK, Number 1 in Scandinavia, Number 2 in Germany for ‘Live It Up’. Success in a few exotic locations has been a thrill.
Also, when Mental as Anything was inducted into the Hall Of Fame. (On 27 August 2009, Mental As Anything was inducted into the ARIAs). That was fantastic.
It was very unexpected and quite emotional I think, because all of the original members came together and played, and it was pretty moving.
> 2009, the album is called ‘Tents Up’. Tell us more.
Yeah, well this year we put out a Greatest Hits album and DVD (Essential as Anything, celebrating thirty years since the release of their first EP) which had all of our classic videos for the first time.
It was a bit of a clean up, like getting home and doing the chores. Very cleansing. And then we put out ‘Tents Up’. We are very impressed with it, and I think the punters are too.
Many people think it’s hard to be an old band and get music out that radio stations really want to play, but we still do it.
> Do you find with your music that audiences get a little nostalgic and start reminiscing about the old days?
Yes … we still play three/four nights a week and we always have people coming up to us and saying, “That song was playing when I met my wife or husband,” or, “Oh, it all reminds me of the eighties!” But we’re still here, and if we are still playing, we will always be happy.
> Why should people come to see the show, Greedy?
I think they will be surprised how many songs of ours they know and enjoy. Also, as you get older, I think you get a bit better at playing … You get uglier … but you get better!
> Thank you Greedy!