THE SCREAMING JETS
With the imminent success of their new self-titled album, the Screaming Jets are bound for glory. Andrián Pertout speaks with drummer Craig Rosevear about life and the experience of working with U2's producer Robbie Adams.
How did you start out in music? What inspired you to take on the rhythm sticks?
CR: "Kiss basically, watching Peter Chris up there behind the drums. I'd say there's a real generational thing, because you often read in the music magazines, 'What made you pick up an instrument?', and everybody says the Beatles. Well, the Beatles were all over by the time I was old enough to have any idea what was going on. So to me it was like Peter Chris up there behind the drums. And then being from Newcastle, it's like a good music community up there, I found my way into a band called the Marching Koalas, which was a 160-piece American style marching band. We went to America, England and Japan. After that I just went through a succession of rock n' roll bands. One thing led to an other, and I moved to Sydney and played in a band called BB Steal, which was signed to Phonogram at the time, and had our album produced by Phil Collen, the guitar player from Def Leppard. And this was just when Def Leppard were like huge, they just had released Hysteria. We did a support tour when they came out, and then the whole thing sort of fell apart due to record company bull shit. I was doing a few things in Sydney and then the Screaming Jets rang up and said, 'What are you doing?'."
When did the Screaming Jets form?
CR: "Well, the Screaming Jets formed about five years ago in Newcastle. We'd trodden their path, and I knew of the guys from Newcastle. I was down in Sydney playing, and they rang up when they were in America, and they needed a drummer. So I flew over, and was there for about six months or so, just gigging around."
Whereabouts did you gig there?
CR: "Oh, everywhere. We did about forty states, it was pretty extensive. We were based in LA, in Hollywood, but we went to Texas, over to New York, to Canada. And it was sort of like pretty much driving all the time, no rest".
What did that do for your playing?
CR: "It still does. Just the fact that we play so many gigs, we play so often. There's no substitute for it, it's the real McCoy. You're not rehearsing, you're not practising, you're gigging. I listen to my playing like a year ago, and you know it's like, well fuck! You can really tell the difference. It's very important to maintain that get out and play sort of thing, for any musician, but specially for a drummer. So I found, when we'd come off the road I would do other gigs with other people, just to keep out there playing. I did some gigs with Bob Spencer's band the Temple Gods, and then I did a little stint with Calligula. Last break we had, which was like only about three days, I did a country and western album for a guy called Red Rivers, and we did a gig there as well. It's just a matter of keep playing all the time, 'cause if you have one day off, that's the day you can slip behind".
Was the concept behind the Screaming Jets well planned from the start or just a natural progression?
CR: "Umm, their concept was just to be a rock n' roll band. That was as simple as it was. They formed out the ashes of a band called Aspect, which Dave and Grant were in. They were always let down by their drummer or their bass player, or whatever. And soon they just got fed up and thought, 'Right! We're gonna form a band with good players, good people, so we can really have a go at it'. And that was basically the whole premise behind it. It was not to be anything else but a good rock n' roll band, and that encompasses a fair bit. Just like a band like the Rolling Stones is a rock n' roll band. They might bring out a wide variety of music, but they still maintain that rock n' roll identity. It's a real simple premise, but it's the one that we still adhere to this very day."
Tell me about your new record together? How did you chose the material?
CR: "Well, we demoed about 40 songs. Every time we had a chance we would record some songs. On anything, on a Walkman, on anything, just bash them down. Sometimes on a DAT, just wherever. Then we'd go back and listen to it and think, 'Alright, look we can fix this one up'."
How do you write your songs? Do you jam them out or write them individually?
CR: "Someone will come in with an idea, we'll jam it out, and then Dave will redo the lyrics so he can sing it. Obviously he's the one that sings so he's gotta have the passion behind it. It really is a process. You see it as that, and then it goes through like this assembly line sort of concept, everyone puts their two-bobs worth in, and it comes out the other end. That's obviously the chemistry of the band, the chemistry of the songwriting, everyone has an input. Paul might come in with a song and you won't even recognize it till Dave puts his signature. You know, stamp on it."
What sort of unusual recording techniques and gear did you use?
CR: "We used mostly old stuff. It was all analog. You know, analog desk, a lot of valve mikes, valve ribbon mikes, those big old RCA mikes, valve compressors. All the gear was old, which looked real weird, 'cause here's this real modern studio that had been used for techno bands like Def Fx and Calligula, and with a guy who's done everything from U2 to Thin Lizzy, to the latest techno thing in England. He uses a lot of the old stuff. Even the amps we used were like VOX AC30s. All old stuff, there wasn't a new thing in sight. Even the drums I used were vintage drums. We've got a real thing for the old stuff, we don't really dig the new stuff at all. That's what we did basically in the studio, and it was just all recorded live, the whole thing."
Being a live recording, did you find yourselves spending a lot of time getting the right take? Or did you just let the tape roll and just chose one at the end?
CR: "That's what we did. We'd play the song maybe five times and pick the best take from that. And if we didn't get it that day we'd go back when we were a bit fresher. You know, the next day and hammer it. It just depended, some songs were like second take, 'Yeah that's the one, we got it', and other songs was like, 'Ah'. We were still making little changes here and there in the studio. So it really was a growing process."
Did you actually do many overdubs at the end?
CR: "No, not at all. We did a couple of little fix ups here and there. We did live vocals as well. It was all pretty much live, just to capture the vibe. And I think that's basically the way we're gonna record for the rest of the time, because I think once you tend to start multi-tracking you lose a lot of that energy, a lot of that vibe. Robbie pointed out to us a lot of songs. He'd put on a U2 album, and a lot them are just jams in the studio, they split the rhythm tracks, and put a new guitar thing over the top, and you've got a new song. They even used the same song twice on one of the albums. They slowed it down, that was one groove, and then it's on this album again 3 or 4 tracks later at the right tempo. We had a really enjoyable time in the studio, and it really didn't take that long. We finished the whole tracking of the album in two weeks."
I hear you will be conducting some clinics at Ron Leigh's. What will they be about?
CR: 'The Ron Leigh clinic is basically a continuation of the clinics that Jimi and I do on the road. We really like to play, and the good thing about doing clinics is that you can play anything you want. We get to bang out on a few different types of feels and stuff, and it was really just from the playing thing. You know, 'What are we doing tonight? Let's get out and find a gig'. So we make up our own gig now."
Who do you do that with?
CR: "I do that through Pearl and Paiste. They look after me, and basically Music Link. There's a drum kit model now named after me called the Craig Rosevear model. Actually most people call me Craig 'Rosie' Rosevear. That's like my little Monica nickname. And they've brought out the Craig 'Rosie' Rosevear model now, and it's based on the sizes I use, which is a 10", 12" and 14" tom, and 22" kick drum. That's brought out by Pearl, and when you purchase that kit you get a copy of the Jets CD with it. Jimi does his with Sansamp. Sansamp is a guitar stomp box, you can use it live for an extra bit of distortion. They're gigantic in America, where people just plug them into their 4-track or whatever and you've got a hell guitar sound from the start. Jimi's got his own CD, as you know being from Melbourne yourself. And I've just done a drum video called 'How to Tick Tock in Rock'. I only finished that about two weeks ago."
What's the video about?
CR: "It's called 'How to Tick Tock in Rock' and it covers all the stuff that will get you a gig. So it's not like the other drum videos where it's like, this is how you play a para diddle, a guy sitting in a darkened room counting to four. Mine is like a lot of back stage footage. It basically covers a day in a life of a drummer. It's like a lifestyle video for drummers. It shows me driving to rehearsal, setting the gear up. It's not like hours and hours of this and that, it just flashes a bit and I'm talking over it, demonstrating different techniques. Just real basic rock stuff the other videos don't cover, which is so important, like where to play a drum fill, how to play it, how not to get out of time, and that sort of thing. Through to looking after your gear, double bass drum techniques, working with a click track in the studio, and then it goes into like attitude stuff. The difference between your practice room and on stage. And we've got a few lighter moments. You know, just like funny stuff that happens on the road and shit like that. It goes for 40 minutes and it's gonna sell for $24.95."
Where will this current tour be taking you?
CR: "Well, we started in Sydney and we're heading up to the Sunshine Coast, North Queensland. I'm in Brisbane right now. And then we'll be flying back down to Melbourne, and then across to Adelaide."
Where do you find the time to relax?
CR: "Oh, I don't know. Right now, this is about it. It's pretty hard and there's so much happening. It's like being at the show, when you were a little kid. There's like so much going on and you wanna be part of it all."
'Mixdown' Monthly ~ Issue #20, December 27, 1995
BEAT MAGAZINE PTY LTD
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