The Ones We Love: Celebrating R.E.M. (1982 - 1992) Australian Tour
Coming up this August & September a unique series of concerts across Australia, The Ones We Love: Celebrating R.E.M. - it promises to be a rare opportunity to experience your favourite R.E.M. songs live. It features an All-Star line-up of Vocalists paying tribute to R.E.M. and performing songs from their rich back catalogue including – Losing My Religion, The One I Love, Man on the Moon, It’s The End of the World, Radio Free Europe, Drive, Orange Crush, Everybody Hurts, The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight, Nightswimming, Stand, Fall on Me, Driver 8, Shiny Happy People plus plenty more. Backing them are some of Australia’s finest musicians who will honour the sound that was uniquely and undeniably R.E.M.
Jeff Martin (the Tea Party)
Steve Kilbey (The Church)
Ron S. Peno (Died Pretty)
Trish Young (The Clouds)
Alannah Russack (The Hummingbirds)
Ashley Naylor (Even)
Greg Atkinson (Ups & Downs)
Peter Fenton (Crow)
In advance of the shows Black Sheep Radio's Mike battled a power cut to bring you an interview with Greg Atkinson, lead singer and bass player of 80s Aussie rockers Ups and Downs, ahead of The Ones We Love: Celebrating R.E.M. tour starting this week.
MS: First of all Greg, thanks for taking the time to speak to Black Sheep Radio. The show looks great, how did you get involved?
GA: The guys in the backing band - Exploding Boys - had the idea and thought it was something we could take to a larger audience. I knew a couple of the guys from doing a tribute to Glide/William Arthur, a couple of years ago. Being a massive R.E.M. fan I jumped at the chance.
MS: Locally we've seen Tex Perkins’ tribute to Johnny Cash, and Chris Cheney & Tim Rogers touring The White Album. Is this literally what it’s about – a celebration and tribute to R.E.M.?
GA: It’s interesting because when a band has been around a long time, and they get big, their sound kind of gets bigger with it. I had been a fan of R.E.M. without actually thinking too much about it, but as we went back and listened to their first four or five albums, it made me realise actually what a big fan of the band I was. I'd forgotten how good they were.
MS: R.E.M. certainly still resonate today, from when they burst onto the scene all those years ago through to the chart success, and there's a heap of great tracks there.
GA: That's the thing about a band that has had such a long trajectory as R.E.M. have, rising up from literally Indie Rock Gods to being big in the mainstream, there's such a diversity there. Some of the singers in the show will be doing the big hits but my brother and I (Darren Atkinson) will be mostly focussing on songs from the first couple of albums. We'll be chucking in a big hit though just to acknowledge that latter day stuff.
My relationship with R.E.M. – both my own personal relationship and that of Ups and Downs - was specifically with the first two albums, and that's where we came into the scene, on that wave of bands like R.E.M. that were hitting the cover of the NME. Hip bands making great, poetic, rhythmically interesting, slightly dark music. That was right up my alley.
MS: You'll have to forgive me a bit, but you can tell from my accent I'm not from round here! I only arrived in Australia in 2004, so I missed that real wave of Aussie bands apart from the obvious stuff like INXS.
GA: Even INXS had some good albums!
It was a big time for us, as fans but also as a band. We'd moved to Sydney on the back of a successful single and were being compared to R.E.M. - there was a wave of bands that came out at that time, inspired by R.E.M. and bringing a similar sound. Much in the way that Nirvana inspired a new generation of artists some years later. R.E.M. had intelligence, had great melodies, and appealed to anyone drawn to that genre.
MS: So the travelling crew, have you had any rehearsals yet or is it a case of look, you're all accomplished enough…
GA: No, we've had a couple of rehearsals; we set aside a couple of days with the backing band but not a lot really. Basically I've been singing these songs in the car for the past few months, every day, so I could get all the Michael Stipe nuances - and the lyrics of course! It actually surprised me considering how much a fan I was, how few of the actual lyrics I knew – it’s one thing mumbling along in the car but I can't just do that on the night!
When you're a kid you just sing what you think you're hearing, and to be honest its much the same when you're in your twenties, which is what I was when R.E.M. came out. When you spend some time with the song as you're older, you think 'Wow, I actually know what they're singing now!'
You know, even at that age, in my mid-twenties, I was like a kid in a toyshop whenever I went into a record store, just loving new music and being excited and inspired by these bands. Radiohead had the same impact on me later… a band that can make you rethink the way you have accepted music to be. I hadn't imagined music that could go in these directions, or could even have that imagination to take you to new places.
MS: And it must be great to be able to actually play along to it as well?
GA: Yeah, although this time I won't actually be playing an instrument, which is going to be strange for me. I haven't done a lot of just standing there with just a mic, maybe a bit with Ups and Downs now and again, but I feel semi naked!
MS: So, the first show is on Friday in Brisbane - you must be excited?
GA: Very much so. My brother and I will be heading up to Brisbane on Thursday so we can hang around with our mother, so looking forward to squeezing in some relaxing time before the show too.
MS: As we said, you played the Northcote Social, and this time is a bigger venue at the Palais. You must have played quite a few places in your time...
GA: I'm pretty sure we played there with Ups and Downs. We did the Corner, the Prince of Wales...
MS: We are blessed with venues in Melbourne.
GA: I always loved coming to Melbourne; I love the feel of the city. It has more art culture than Sydney and more respect for its architecture. The NSW govt is demolishing things left right and centre make space for some bloody highways or something or other. But yeah, I love coming to Melbourne, and it gives me a chance to hook up with my daughter.
MS: There's obviously quite a big crew for this set of shows, is everyone travelling together or will you be splitting up for some of the gigs?
GA: Darren and I will be heading to Brisbane on our own, but next week we'll all be on the same plane, laughing and joking about trotting out on stage to become R.E.M.. It’s quite a surreal thing, being in a band now.. back in my twenties this was all I did; it was normal. Nowadays it’s quite surreal, that being in a band is just one of the things I do. I can see it from a new perspective, so when something big like this comes along, it's like wow, yeah!
MS: So it’s a bit like The Blues Brothers getting the band back together!
GA: Something like that, yeah! Although maybe with less of the wacky antics.
MS: Ok, well thanks for talking to Black Sheep Radio, we really appreciate it and wish you the best of luck for the upcoming shows.
The dates are as below and can be purchased through https://metropolistouring.com/tours/celebrating-rem/
Charlatans Australian Tour 2018
The Charlatans are back in Australia later this month and Black Sheep Radio caught up with their long serving guitarist Mark Collins for a chat to discuss their upcoming tour, their latest EP release Totally Eclipsing as well as the essential item he'd need to take if he'd ever considered migrating down under......
Andy Mitchell: Hi Mark, appreciate you joining us here on Black Sheep Radio - How are you?
Mark Collins: All good mate, thanks for having me.
AM: Firstly, I’d like to say congratulations on the new EP Totally Eclipsing. It’s a great little collection of songs there, I’m really enjoying it. I think you’ve carried on where you left off from the hugely impressive Different Days.
MC: Thank you, we are really pleased with the way it has turned out
AM: Different Days was only released last year, so what drove you to go back in to record new material so soon?
MC: We were kind of in a ‘between-records’ phase. We had some tracks written, and we were in the middle of touring, and we thought it would be a good idea if we just recorded them and put them out there. It was kind of a spontaneous idea; we had just finished the European leg of the tour and had a free week, so we went to London and did it. We told the record company, and they thought it was a good idea to release it. It’s all come together well.
AM: Last month you hosted and played at a home coming festival in the town of Northwich (England). Can you tell us a bit about that, how that came about and what your highlight was?
MC: The band is half based in the Midlands and half in Manchester, and Northwich is a satellite town outside of Manchester. Our first manager owned a record shop there and the place became a home to us as a band, so we had the idea to do a homecoming gig. That rapidly expanded and turned into ten day affair where we had events all over the town! We basically took over the place with exhibitions, and bands playing in pubs it was great.
AM: How did the locals react to you taking over their town?
MC: They loved it! The council got right behind it and there was an influx of people coming into the town every day - the chippies and pizza shops had never seen so many people! The weather was fantastic too, it was just a beautiful thing.
AM: With five scheduled dates here in August - Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide & Perth, what can we expect from those?
MC: We’ll definitely play stuff off Totally Eclipsing, as a well as tracks from Different Days and Modern Nature… but we’ll be playing tracks from across the decades and the old favourites that the crowd wanna hear.
AM: There’s a huge amount of expats who are likely to come out droves for your dates, and one bonus of living out here is that we get to see bands like yourselves in smaller and more intimate venues than we may do back home. What’s your preference in regards to playing? Do you like festivals, stadium, or these smaller venues?
MC: I actually prefer the smaller ones where people can hit you with projectiles and you gotta be on your toes! Defo small venues where it’s hot and sweaty…yeah hot and sweaty, that’s how I like it!
AM: With being out here in Australia it’s sometimes a challenge to keep up with the British music scene, are there any new acts you’ve recently that you’re been impressed with?
MC: Well Tim (Burgess) has his own record label, O Genesis, and there are a couple of great bands in there including a band called Average Sex. They are just recording their EP which will be out very soon and they are a cool bunch of kids, so check them out.
AM: Whilst viewing the new video for Total Eclipsing I noticed Gary Neville (former Manchester United footballer) was on there. What’s the deal with him as I believe he’s played some gigs with you previously, is that right?
MC: Well he got on stage with us and played some acoustic guitar for Just When You’re Thinking Things Over at a rooftop gig in Manchester, not far from Old Trafford. He’s no stranger to playing in front of a crowd but he looked really nervous, like he was about to take a penalty in a World Cup final! He’s been a fan of ours and coming to our gigs for many years now, and continually gives us support and shout outs to his 3 million twitter followers which is great!
AM: One last question Mark, there a lot of expats listening to Black Sheep Radio here in Australia, and there are certain things we miss about the UK. It’s mostly food so for me it’s pork pies and prawn cocktail crisps! What do you reckon you’d miss if you emigrated out here?
MC: HP Sauce
AM: No need to worry, you can get it here!
MC: Oh well, I’m sorted, I’m not going to miss anything apart from watching United play.
AM: It’s been a pleasure talking to you Mark, thanks for your time and good luck with the EP and tour. Hope to catch up with you when you are across.
MC: Thanks, we are all looking forward to coming out and seeing you all down under, cheers.
The Charlatans Australian Tour Dates August 2018.
Tickets can be purchased from: https://metropolistouring.com/the-charlatans/