We heard it from the (punk) horse’s mouth : Soundwave ’15 just might be the last chance you have to see Area-7 play a show, or even exist as a band. Bernie Burke chatted with frontman Stevo to get the lowdown on his two decades making Aussie ska magic, and what the band are up to next…
BB: It’s been 20 years since you joined Area-7 Stevo – how does that feel?
S: My knees and ankles hurt a lot after shows, so it feels a little bit tough! But the music and the shows are fantastic. The energy from our crowd still hasn’t changed after all these years, and it just makes you want to go harder.
BB: So then will you just keep going until your legs fall off?!
S: Well I dunno…I had a couple of operations on my knee last year because I played football for a long time. My knees have been a bit of a problem for me jumping around on stage, but I’ve got that fixed now so you never know. I might be able to keep it going, but in all honesty I think you might find Soundwave will be the last ever shows. So we’ll ride off into the sunset and hand over the microphone to some new up and coming bands.
BB: What is it that makes you love punk and ska over other styles of music?
S: Interesting. I’m a lot older than the other guys in Area-7 (in case you didn’t notice!)
I was around in the days when the Sex Pistols came out. I remember the first time I heard their music, thinking to myself “that’s the first time I’ve ever heard music I actually really, really relate to,” I felt it in my heart.
Then a few years later, I was a punker, and then in ‘80 or ‘81 I saw Madness and I that changed my life….and The Clash coming out with London Calling too. From then, for me it was just those two musical forms coming together – the reggae-ska flavour with some power chords really got me going.
Put those two genres together, add a little bit of good ‘ol Aussie pub rock (Chuck’s really good on the guitar with that sort of stuff) don’t take yourself too seriously… and you’ve got Area-7. I think it works …it’s just good sing-along dance music.
BB: What are some of the highlights from all your years of touring?
S: Madness were an amazing band, and one of the highlights of my career was playing with them (in different bands) many years ago. Meeting the guys – they were like my childhood heroes!
I think with Area-7, playing for the defence forces in East Timor was fantastic. To be able to play in the middle of the jungle surrounded by nothing but soldiers and tanks – it is a unique experience. And to play music for the East Timorese people that endured so much was amazing.
From a star struck perspective – playing with No Doubt, and realising that your own idols like your band too.
And meeting Billy Bragg, who I absolutely idolise – so there’s been some good moments along the way.
But we’re just really thankful and happy that we’ve had some fun on stage and played our hearts out. We’re not about ego or being the next best thing…we just like playing music, and if people wanna join us and have some fun then that’s great.
BB: Are there any new releases in the works?
S: That’s a great question. We’ve had plenty of offers to do a record…we might do a digital EP in the lead up to Soundwave, if we can get our arses into the studio.
BB: Tell us bit about your musical history.
S: We had music playing all the time. My Dad, who unfortunately passed away earlier this year, was a really big country and western fan. He loved Hank Williams, who is critically acclaimed as one of the best songwriters of all times.
My mum was always singing me Motown songs – which I didn’t know back in those days, was a lot of old ska songs! She would always sing Desmond Dekker songs, and Little Milly, things like that.
I grew up in the western suburbs of Melbourne where you pretty much were in a gang or you got in trouble. So I met some guys one day, got in a band and that’s where it started…and like I said, one day I was riding a skate board, heard the Sex Pistols and I was like “who are these guys?” and I just got more into music.
I used to catch a train from the city out to St Albans, and there used to be a place called The Ballroom (now known as The George) I would go and see the punk bands, then creep back and sleep in the brotherhood bin, because the trains stopped running at 11, and I’d wait ‘til they started in the morning and then I’d catch a train back. So I really loved punk rock in the early days, and I’ve just grown with it over time. So yeah, I’m pretty fortunate that I grew up in a really good age of music.
BB: Who are you looking forward to seeing at SW15?
S: There’s a couple of bands. I love the Aquabats . The Interrupters, I think they’re absolutely great…and then also Of Mice and Men, who I love ‘cos my daughter made me listen to them. I think they’re a great little hardcore screamo band. And of course my favourite Melbourne band, The Bennies, who just seem to go from strength to strength.
And I think Slipknot from a factor of just putting on a theatrical show- fantastic band.
BB: What’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened to you onstage Stevo?
S: I think just standing on stage and watching the entire crowd turn into a massive circle pit – I think that’s really cool, and when I see that it blows me away.
Area-7 are playing on day 1 of Sydney Soundwave festival – grab tickets and check the rest of the lineup at www.soundwavefestival.com