The Screaming Jets are back in town this month for a series of shows. Talking to band stalwart, big mouth and frontman, Dave Gleeson, he expounds about the highs and lows of the music industry and we discover the band aren’t into a nostalgia trip - they want to get back to the top of the Oz Rock mountain.
The band have a history of line-up changes, sacked tour and band managers, but the underlying constant is that they serve up great live shows, have a legion of fans and still aspire to break back into the mainstream. Their new album ‘Do Ya’, is a powerful return and, given a fair playing field, they do deserve some headlines for all the right reasons.
The Screaming Jets burst onto the scene in 1991 with their debut album, ‘All For One’, that spawned the hit, ‘Better. It was in the era of grunge dominance and, locally, the scene was devoid of a pure pub rock‘n’roll band – enter The Screaming Jets. The brash young men from Newcastle lit up stages with their balls-to-the-wall unrelenting rock assault that established them as one of our premier rock bands, in the footsteps of The Angels, Rose Tattoo and much tougher than INXS.
Subsequent albums produced radio-friendly hits such as ‘Helping Hand’, a cover of the Boy’s Next Door, ‘Shiver’ did them no harm and before they knew it they were on tours with the likes of Def Leppard, Ugly Kid Joe, Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains.
Fast-track to 2009 and the band have no major label support, and instead rely on the internet, street press and word of mouth to get their music heard, and some members of the band have reverted to day jobs to pay the bills.
Fans may be used to the line up changes, but the most shocking was the departure of Grant Walmsley. In fact, in an interview in the ‘90s Grant said if either Dave, Paul or himself left the band, it would signal the end. Well, history shows Grant has left the band and The ‘Jets are still kicking on. Retrospect is a bitch, eh?
“Look, we never wanted to part with Grant and the situation got ugly,” explains Dave Gleeson admits. “Grant was teaching at TAFE and also had other commitments. He wanted to work the band’s schedule around his teaching commitments and personal goals. There are five of us in this band and we couldn’t just work around Grant’s wishes. He threatened us, saying the band will be nothing without him and it all got a bit narky. We, as a band, decided we had to continue without Grant and the whole thing ended up in an ugly legal battle I don’t really want to discuss. But put shortly, it cost the band and the issue is resolved, but Grant isn’t on speaking terms with us anymore”.
In the meantime their new album, ‘Do Ya’, is a return to the band’s rockier roots. It’s also the last album that features Walmsley’s playing. The ‘Jets had the option to re-record bits of the album with new guitarist , Scott Kingman (ex- Horsehead ), but decided to leave the album intact with Grant’s recorded bits, partly to get the album out and secondly as a mark of respect to Walmsley despite the fallout of his departure.
For a rock band shoe-boxed by many as a bunch of bogans, the album touches on issues far deeper than your average bogan would care to discuss.
“We have not given up hope yet,” Gleeson gleefully expounds. “We want to proudly fly the flag of pub rock. Many of today’s kids are stuck in the iPod generation, where you don’t listen to albums anymore … you hand-pick one song and then skip to another. We want to bring back the feel of listening to an album.
“We have issues we feel need touching on,” he adds. “Look at climate change, even its title had to be watered down due to political correctness, as people are too afraid to call it global warming. Look at our fat-cat politicians - they decided to round up all our homeless during the Olympics, so visitors couldn’t see the plight of our homeless. There are so many other issues out there that need to be touched on, but kids of today, prefer to listen to a Katy Perry song about kissing a girl, go figure.”
Welcome back, ‘Jets.