Latest release: All for One – 30th Anniversary Edition (Independent)Website: screamingjetsofficial.com.au
“I took a bit of a leaf out of The Angels’ book actually, because they’ve done the Recharged series,” admits Dave Gleeson of The Screaming Jets, who are about to release a completely re-recorded version of their 1991 debut album All for One. “We don’t have the old masters, like a lot of bands don’t from that era, and after thirty years I don’t think we could fucking find them anyway, so I just thought it was a great idea to get this group of guys in, who are the current line-up, and we all get on like a house on fire and it was a nice, fun exercise to do and it came out sounding great thanks to Steve James, our original producer.”
The Screaming Jets were one of the last bands to emerge during the Golden Age of Australian Pub Rock, where venues across the country were filled to capacity every night of the week. By late 1992, the old rock aesthetic was being challenged by the rise of grunge, a movement that informed and was informed by a new generation of punters, and the introduction of poker machines which were a preferred option for many licensees.
“There was probably ourselves and the Baby Animals, and just before that was Johnny Diesel and the Injectors,” Gleeson says of those times, “and then after that was when everything went grunge and that was when the world turned on its axis and you weren’t allowed to be a joyful, fun band anymore. You had to be sad, and David Lee Roth went out the window and Leonard Cohen came in as a frontman. It was a very hard time, but it was a time when LA had been the Mecca of music for a long time, from the early 80s to the early 90s and there was a big changing of the guard when it moved to Seattle.”
It was on-site gambling machines, however, that struck the death knell for one of the greatest live music cultures in the world at the time.
“Poker machines came along at that time as well, and they had a massive impact. A lot of the big beer barns that relied on having those big nights, some of those went to the wall. There was a bunch of rooms up in Queensland that held 1500, 2000 people and poker machines came in and started changing the economy from the bottom and most especially all those little rooms that held 200 people, 300, kind of said they’d rather have 20 pokies in here and not have fights every night and have to hose the blood out in the morning. And that was definitely a big knock for all live music.”
The Screaming Jets got through it, with a few shifting line-ups and some commercial ups and downs. 30 years after tracks like Better, Shine On and Stop the World cut a swathe through radio playlists and venues first filled to the sound of a thousand people chanting the chorus of F.R.C. at full volume, the rejigging of their debut album All for One is a testament to the early days and their survival into the present. There is a cache of fans who are dead set against it, but Gleeson isn’t bothered by that.
“It’s our band and we’ll do what we want,” he says with a laugh. “I understand there’s still a movement out there saying to get the original band back together, and stuff. It’s just not gonna happen. They can start their own band and do whatever they want, but I think we do what we do with respect to the Jets name and what it stands for. There’s a lot of water under the bridge. Me and Paul are the mainstays of the band, but Jimi’s been in the band for twenty years, Scottie’s been in the band for probably 14 years now – come on, it’s our band and we’ll do what we like.”
Indeed, the band that recorded the first two albums only lasted until 1993; the current line-up of Gleeson, bassist fellow founding member Paul Woseen and guitarists Jimi Hocking and Scott Kingman has been together now since 2009, with drummer Cam McGlinchey in place for two years. It is a different group of people from those who originally laid down All for One, and more than three decades of experience and leaps in studio technology makes the re-recorded album familiar, but different, and there is little doubt some fans who grew up on the original might be thrown by the sound of the new one.
“There’s new tricks and new technologies available, and everybody’s a better player… well, there’s only two of us in there from the beginning – but everyone in the band has spent 30 years playing rather than, at that stage, we’d probably been playing for four or five years. Everything grows and you become a bit more discerning in how you want things to sound, and of course we’ve got Scottie and Paul who both know a thing or two about sound engineering and production so it all adds in to the pot to show that, in some ways, we’re all a bit older and wiser.”
The new All for One is heavier and more aggressive with a modern production, but many of the tracks sound more or less the same. Markedly, the more popular ones have changed quite a bit through 30 years of performance
“They’ve changed in the live sphere. C’Mon’s got a lead break in it that it didn’t have before and Shine On goes through a monstrous change in the middle. So the ones that have been part of the set are the ones that have changed the most. Obviously, Better… you don’t want to stuff around with things too much and have people go, What are they doing? The ones that grew organically are the ones that really changed.”
While tracks like Better have been remoulded and reimagined through years of familiarity, other songs haven’t been played for years: “Some of them fell off pretty early in our career… The Only One we probably haven’t done since 1992!” Dave says with a laugh. Sister Tease, Woseen’s grimy hair-metal tribute to an old girlfriend, is another lesser aired track.
“I had no idea how that went!” Gleeso admits, laughing again. “Paulie wrote that about his then-girlfriend, so it’s not his favourite song at all! Last year or the year before when I said, ‘Let’s put it back in the said’, he said, ‘No, fuck it! I hate that.’ It’s one of those things… like Homer Simpson said, ‘Now I know how God feels. I’ve grown to hate my own creation.’”
The band’s upcoming tour will be the first time they’ve played All for One track for track.
“We [would] always put the songs in the set. Some of them fell off pretty early in our career… Starting Out is another one I love… That’s one of the things I love about the album, the diversiveness – there were three or four songwriters on that album, so there was a lot of diversity of songs and different styles. A bit of rock, a bit of blues, a bit of reggae!”
All for One smashed into the Australian Top Ten and set the Jetters up for a career as one of the country’s most successful rock bands. Thirty years of fluctuating fortunes, slight musical shifts and personnel reshuffles and the re-recorded version of that debut shows a band with the same energy and enthusiasm for classic heavy rock as the young blokes who won Triple J’s National Band Competition in 1989, even if it’s not quite the same group of blokes.
“I think it’s going to be a good celebration of 30 years,” Dave Gleeson declares, “and you can still get the original version if you want. And this one’s coming out on vinyl – and purple vinyl, as well!”