When Bob Kretschmer left Icehouse for personal reasons, many Icehouse fans felt that it would take somebody pretty special to take his place. Iva held auditions and that "somebody special" was found in Melbourne. Paul Gildea became part of Icehouse and brought with him a great singing voice, as well as a guitar playing style that everyone quickly came to admire. One of the quietest and humblest members of Icehouse, we spoke with Paul about life in Melbourne, life in the Australian music biz, and a life making music.
Spellbound: Where were you born?
Paul: In Melbourne.
Spellbound: What was your childhood like in Melbourne?
Paul: I grew up on the north side of the city, which is very working class. My father was a technician for Telecom, which is the telephone company here. He was a radio operator in Darwin during the war, for the RAAF -- the Royal Australian Air Force. He grew up in a country town called Murrayville. The only way to get out of country towns in Australia was to join the armed forces in those days, or become a nurse if you were a woman. So he joined the RAAF when he was 16 and came to Melbourne, and then they sent him to Darwin, which subsequently got bombed by the Japanese. In Darwin there were lots and lots of airfields. Some of them were run by the British, some of them were run by the Americans, and the remainder were run by the Australians. He was stationed on an Australian one -- fortunately off the day that it got bombed!
Both he and my mother came from the country. She came from another Victorian country town called Mildurra. Her parents were English; they came out here when they were quite young. So, they met in Melbourne, and I was born in Melbourne, in a suburb called Coburg.
Spellbound: Are you an only child?
Paul: No, I have an older brother, an older sister, and a younger sister. There's nine years between us all; my younger sister's only 19 months younger than I am.
Spellbound: Any musical background?
Paul: There was not really much music in our family at all really, and I always wanted to play the drums. From the time I can remember, I always spent my spare moments erecting drum kits out of cardboard boxes, and designing names for the front of them. My sister who's about seven years older than me collected all the Beatles records, all the 45s. I used to play them for hours and hours on end and stand next to the record player and pretend that I was playing them.
Spellbound: You were Ringo Starr.
Paul: Well, yeah, although it was a funny thing because I always wanted to play the drums, and yet I always saw myself as the singer playing the guitar. So there was a problem there then, which should have alerted me to later problems I suppose.
Spellbound: So you wanted to play the drums, but you wanted the glory of being the lead singer.
Paul: I didn't want to miss out on being up the front.
Spellbound: They do get all the glory, don't they!
Paul: Absolutely! We were fairly sporting, so I swam all the time when I was a kid, and we were always going to the beach and there was lots of aquatic activity for us. I played football a bit but I was terrified every time the ball came near me so I wasn't much good at those kinds of things. I used to run away every time the ball came close to me, but swimming really suited me and lots of aquatic sports -- surfing, skin diving. As early as I could possibly do it I did my sea pass to get a scuba diving endorsement which I don't really do much of anymore, but I loved it when I was younger.
Yeah, there wasn't a lot of music at all really in my family, and by the time I was 12 I really wanted an instrument and I wasn't allowed to have a drum kit because it was too noisy. I had a great-uncle who was a director of a board of a really big music store here in Australia. He took me in when I was 12 and let me choose a guitar, so I got a guitar by default really, I didn't really want it. But then I decided I had it so I should learn it.
Spellbound: Were you self taught?
Paul: No, I had a couple of years of lessons on and off until I was about 15, and then decided that all of the stuff that I was learning -- which wasn't either predominantly jazz or classical, it was just all beginner's guitar stuff -- I wasn't interested in playing any of it. I really wanted to play stuff that I was listening to on the radio, so I just started teaching myself from the radio like most of my friends, and joined a band as soon as I could. I was probably 15½ when I joined a band.
Spellbound: Do you remember the name of it?
Paul: Yeah, it was called Eden.
Spellbound: You said you were playing what was on the radio. What were you predominantly
Paul: I really loved Santana, because it was so rhythmic for a start. It was so guitar oriented predominantly -- that was my major reason. The songs went for a long time, I really loved things that went for a long time. And with all my friends that I jammed with, we were all into long solos and long pieces of music that evolved slowly. They were their own little private symphonies I suppose, featuring guys that didn't really have a great musical knowledge. By playing together and playing off each other all the time, we just kept getting stronger or faster or better. Not necessarily more tasteful, but we were just exploiting any of those natural abilities that we had. Playing that form of music was a great way to exploit those natural abilities. Because the songs were long, they allowed you to develop as you went along. If you tried something and it didn't work, it wasn't like it was blown in three minutes.
Probably one of the major things that my parents helped me with was that there was a church hall just near us. My parents were on the committee and they organised a key for us so we could go in there and jam all the time. That was two doors up from where I lived so I could always have my friends over to jam. We formed a little band around that which became Eden. That's how it began. By the time I was 16 I was doing little gigs with that, and my father used to drive me in the car every Saturday night to gigs. They weren't in pubs, they were in church halls and private parties. It split up after about 12 months, and I went off with two other guys and formed a band, the name of which is too embarrassing to tell anybody, and I became the lead singer and guitar player, and we had this little three piece thing. Then I was listening to lots of Jethro Tull, lots of English sounding bands, probably bands like Deep Purple as well, to a lesser extent Led Zeppelin. Very heavy guitar oriented stuff.
Spellbound: Did you have any straight jobs during this time?
Paul: I was at school. I stayed at school until Year 12, or whatever it's called these days, which is the end of high school. And then I went on to uni and did a Bachelor of Business course. I majored in Sociology, which I finished but never used. So I spent five years at uni.
Spellbound: And you ended up not using it.
Paul: All I wanted to do was be in a band. From one little band I went into another little band and into another little band. The band that followed Eden was a band called Bandit, which was basically most of the guys that were in Eden with a couple of new guys, and a new guy singing. That was the first band that I went to work in pubs with, when I was 17. I was starting to go to uni or finishing off high school then.
I'd spent half my high school years in the north side of the city, and then the other half of my high school years on the south side, going to Melbourne High School. So I was still travelling every day, but I was mixing in a different group of people in that school than when I was at home. My life became a little bit thrown, I suppose. It was a really good experience because I wasn't just stuck in a borough or area that I lived in. I was going to school with kids whose parents owned chemical companies and my father was a technician. So it was a real variety of influences.
Spellbound: Looking back on those early days, is there anybody then that we might know now that you saw in passing, that was just a kid in a band then?
Paul: No… they all are known locally here. They've all been heroes to me in Melbourne and at times throughout Australia but certainly not internationally. When I was a kid I used to see a lot of bands. Melbourne had an incredible scene in the early '70s of bands and places to go to gigs. People in those days -- and I suppose that's the difference between now and then and that's 20 years, so it's considerable -- did go and see bands for the musicians in those days essentially because the marketing side of it didn't exist. There weren't videos and there wasn't television exposure. You only knew about bands because they were in a pub. You stumbled upon them. People always went out to pubs. There were no discos here really and if there were they were a fad. Live music was really it, people went to see live music all the time. Mostly original live music too.
Spellbound: It's not that way so much anymore; it's kind of sad.
Paul: No, it's not, but that's the way it is. But the great thing about that is that a lot of the people that I used to go and see then who were my heroes, I've since got to work with which has been incredible. Sometimes it's just little gigs or sometimes in little studios doing things. Sometimes I've pinched myself and thought I can remember seeing this guy 15 or 20 years ago and thinking I hope I'm one day good enough to be in a band with him. And they've rung me up and asked me to do something with them. That's been a really good thing, you know, some sort of personal satisfaction. It doesn't make me a millionaire, but it's great personal satisfaction.
Spellbound: In a way that's more important, isn't it?
Paul: Yeah… no, I'd rather be a millionaire. I love those people, but I'd still rather be wealthy!
Spellbound: So, Eden and then Bandit. What came after that?
Paul: I think I spent most of my time after that in university. Just played a bit, not a great deal. Different bands. I think I was in a band called Livewire when I was 21. That was my only ever cover band.
Spellbound: Who did you do covers of?
Paul: Oh, it would have been John Cougar, Foreigner, all those late '70s bands. I did that while I was at uni. I worked as a roadie for a while, as a matter of fact I worked as a roadie for a long time.
Spellbound: For whom?
Paul: Anybody really, I did a cabaret thing for a while, operating a lighting thing. I didn't really want to play. I was sick of playing. I was a bit disillusioned already. I was going to college and I didn't really want to go. I'd chosen my course purely by choosing the institution that was closest to me as opposed to choosing the course that was really the right one to do. So, there wasn't a lot of sense in any of my choice of anything.
All I wanted to do was play guitar, and my brother was going to uni and studying and was going to be a dentist. I felt a lot of parental pressure to go and study, and I had the marks to study. I wasn't particularly bright, but I just hated failing so I always did enough work to get through. So I had the marks to get into a course, and I chose the one that was closest to me, but all I wanted to do was play guitar and be in a band.
Spellbound: But you got the "why can't you be more like your brother?" treatment.
Paul: A bit. It was more subliminal than it was obvious, but I got it, and also I felt kind of guilty, too, because I knew my parents had really struggled to get us out of where they lived and send us all to good schools; we all went to private or semi-private schools. I don't regret it, but for a few years it didn't make any sense to be playing. It made me too depressed because I didn't want to play, but I did want to play and I didn't feel like I was doing it. I had a couple of offers then through different people to move interstate and join bands and I just couldn't do it. Some of them were bands that looked like they were going to do things and have big record deals.
You know, in retrospect I'm glad I didn't do it, but I was a bit of a late starter I suppose. By the time I was about 24, I formed a band with this other girl who was on the television all the time who was a cabaret singer. Her name was Maria Mercedes, an Italian singer with a really big voice, and she was writing songs and she wanted someone to write with so I started working with her. Of course, she was struggling a bit because nobody took her very seriously. Everyone thought she had a great voice, which she did have, but everyone saw her as a cabaret star.
But I thought she was great and I needed someone to work with so I wrote a lot with her. From the time I was about 23 actually, I wrote with her for about 12 months and then we put this band together which also had another embarrassing name -- I've been in lots of embarrassing names, do you want this one?
Spellbound: Yes, please!
Paul: Okay, this one was called King Hit, which is an Australian colloquialism. It's like an alternative word for somebody who hits you once and you never get up again. So it's like Australian slang I suppose. I don't know if it's American slang as well. If somebody king hits you they come up from behind, they hit you once, and you never get up again.
Spellbound: No, never heard that.
Paul: It's a haymaker, I suppose, is that what you'd call it in America?
Spellbound: Right, yeah.
Paul: Something like that. Anyway, terribly embarrassing, but that was a band full of actually very good musicians with a shocking name. We did that, and we recorded a single. It was a remake of -- oh, there was another band in between this, God, I'm remembering it all.
Spellbound: It's all coming back...
Paul: You want to know that?
Paul: Before King Hit there was a band called Toy Show, it's even worse. I'll have to have a jelly bean…
Spellbound: Yes, fortify yourself!
Paul: I'm going into shock! And we recorded, with Ian Meldrum producing, a song from the 50s called "And Then I Kissed Her" and we did that. We had a girl singer so we had to call it "And Then I Kissed Him." So we recorded a version of that and did all the TV shows and that subsequently died and we thought well, let's get a real name. Unfortunately, that's how King Hit came up; I don't know what we were thinking on that day. We put a real band together to go and do this thing and just go and play in the pubs.
We worked a lot for about two years and then that fell apart. I think Maria went off to do a play, a theatre production in Sydney. She's actually always in demand to do different things like that. She's a very good singer and an actress. When she went off to do that we split our alliances. I hobbled around a little while and ended up in a country and western band, mainly because I knew the guys in it rather than knew anything about playing country and western, but I was vaguely interested in lots of the great guitar players that play country and western. I'd been playing loud, distorted, fuzzy guitar for a lot of bands, and I just felt the need to do something different.
Spellbound: Something maybe a bit more melodic.
Paul: Not even so much more melodic, but a completely different tack. I didn't want to go on playing heavy rock guitar all the time. And because I wasn't taking any lessons, the only way to expand was to work with people who were doing different material. So I went off and did that.
Spellbound: There's a book out called The Who's Who of Australian Rock.
Paul: I do know of it because two Icehouse fans from Brisbane sent me a copy of it. Do you know my name's in there under four different spellings?
Spellbound: We know you've been given credit for working with the Nellie Packer Band. What kind of band was that?
Paul: It was an original band and I can't even remember how old I was when I did that. It's probably got the year in there I guess.
Spellbound: Yeah, it's 1980.
Paul: After this I joined another band -- here's another great name for you: Johnny Said So. And that was with two guys who had this band the Orphans and a bunch of other people who had been in pretty good bands which had just started to make it. It was an eight piece band, with a girl singer and a sax player. Most of these people I still know from that band. Most of them went on to be in the Black Sorrows. So I did that for a couple of years and we signed a record deal with EMI for the world, which was a really big deal at the time. And then six weeks later the band broke up.
Spellbound: What was the cause of that?
Paul: It became a bit personal. I think in the end, and I think this about a lot of people that I know -- a lot of people really want success but are terrified of it when it comes close to them. I'm not saying specifically that this may be the case with that band, but I think there was a bit of that going on. I think people want success until it's staring them in the face, until the possibility of it is there, and then they jump away in complete fright. I think we suffered a bit from that. I think we'd taken so long and worked so hard on it for a couple of years. I was working during the day too, at a swimming company in the city. I'd been going hard at it for five or six years in different original act projects except for the country thing with not a great deal of success, so I was really disillusioned when that split up. I just didn't want to do anything.
The next step in Paul's musical growth involved Danish musicians, Elvis Presley, and the Hodads…
Paul: I was really depressed so I bought a ticket around the world, and I left three weeks later. I flew through Asia, then to Europe, and ended up in London staying with a friend of mine who worked for Island Records. I was in two minds about what I was going to do: was I going to be a musician, or was I going to use my degree and get a really good job? I ended up staying with this friend of mine who worked for Island Records, and she's a real career girl. So she really put me on this path of "I've got to work."
Then I ended up being in Europe a little bit longer and I worked my way all the way up to Denmark. A mate of mine was living there and he knew these guys in a town called Odense. I went up there and I met these two guys in a bar through my friend. They were musicians and they had a studio. They said, "Why don't you come down and sus out the studio?" Of course, I'm thinking they don't know if I can play. I went to see them and they were really good.
There's a lot of really fantastic musicians there and they get really good support from the state over there as well, all artists do. They have a Socialist government so they look after all kinds of artists and people like that really well with a whole lot of tax breaks for people who want to set up recording studios and bands and things like that. Odense is like a university town so there were a lot of really fine musicians there and these guys were no exception.
So I ended up hanging around with them for a while and then one day the guys said, "We need someone to do a session. The guy we normally use can't do it." I guess he was taking a chance on me. He said, "Why don't you do it?" and I said, "I have no gear," and he said, "I'll organise something from the music shop, you just go to the music shop and choose what you want." So I went down there and I chose. I went up and did this session for them which was really easy. It was just a commercial for something in Denmark, I can't even remember. I think they were really surprised that I could play at the level that I could play -- not that I was incredible but they were probably expecting someone who just sort of played down the corner, and I'd been working ten years in pubs and had played with some really great players. Never in a really well known band, but certainly played with some really great players so I knew how to work with people and I knew how to get sounds.
So it turned out that I stayed for another month after that and worked with them at the studio nearly all the time and wrote a few songs there. But I left there thinking, "No, I really want to be a musician. I don't want to be a career person."
Then I spent another two months overseas going to America still not knowing what I was going to do, but hoping that by the time I landed at home I had made up my mind what I was going to do. I was in New York and I was getting all of these Elvis Presley songs in my head and I always hated Elvis Presley. I was really suckered in by this thing. I couldn't believe where these songs were coming from because it was never anything that I was into. I was into lots of stuff, really varied kinds of stuff, but I was never into Elvis Presley. It was extremely daggy. I went to one of those tape shops in New York and bought a couple of Elvis Presley CDs and just loved it and had it on my Walkman the whole time, all these tunes.
This was really freaky because six weeks later when I arrived in Australia, there was a phone call on my machine and it was from a guy that I'd admired in bands when I was 17 and used to go and see all the time. He was known as probably the greatest bass player in this country and a really great singer. I'd met him once during the band Johnny Said So. He'd written a song for the band and came in and helped us arrange it in the studio. He left a message on my machine, saying, "I'm going to put a band together. I want you to be in it so ring me back as soon as you can. We're going to do all this Elvis Presley stuff." I still didn't know how to play any of it. I'd never really studied '50s guitar playing or any of those guys. He said, "I don't mind, if you want to learn it, if you want to be in it, I want to do it."
So we ended up doing that for about a year. It was called the Joe Creighton Band; we did that for about a year. We ended up doing all of the James Brown supports when he came out to Australia. We did a lot of gigs actually. It was a four piece boys' band with stand up drums, double bass, acoustic guitar, and electric guitar. A bit gospely, '50s, although none of us really were ever rockabilly guys but we made it a little bit cabaretish. We got heaps of work and had a great time doing it.
He left to go on tour with John Farnham in Europe and it sort of folded. Then I joined this country band called the Hodads, which is actually American terminology for a surfer. The Hodads went on to become a band called Chocolate Starfish eventually. The Hodads were a country band in the sense that we all wore country clothes and we all had country names, but we played all heavy metal and disco songs. We played them all two-step and swing. It was great fun. The singer and the guitar player from that band went on to form Chocolate Starfish. Adam's name in that band was actually Earl T. Flapjacks, my name was Amos T. Drinkmoor, and we all had names with a "T" in them because all the great country stars had names with "T"s in them. We all spoke with American accents and we did things like "Living On A Prayer" by Bon Jovi but we called it "Living On A Prairie." We did a CD which got played on Triple J all the time on their morning show. It was bad -- really bad, but it was so bad that it was very humourous. We did it just for fun because most of the guys had been in bands and made records and toured and they were all just sick of it and a bit disillusioned and I was very disillusioned.
So I did that, and as I was doing that I also got asked to do this television show on Channel 10 to write some music for them and to be on it. So I did that for 16 weeks too. It was called "The Great TV Game Show." It flopped terribly, but I did 16 weeks and got a lot of money and credit for it. And then while that was folding I got asked to do this theatre production called "Bad Boy Johnny and the Prophets of Doom." It was linked to another theatre production that I'd done during Expo in 1988 in Brisbane with a guy by the name of Peter Crosby at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. He ended up being the musical director on this other theatre production so he asked me to do that. I did that and a cast album after that. All of that project stiffed as well.
Spellbound: What exactly did you do in that?
Paul: I played guitar, I was on stage, I had a few lines in the play. It was a play about a band really. It had a lot of really good people in it, a lot of really well known Australian musicians in it.
Spellbound: But it didn't go over well.
After bouncing from one project to another, Paul was led to the band that he had been waiting for. The band that would open doors for him later on.
Paul: Just as "Bad Boy Johnny…" was folding down and I was feeling really depressed, I got a call from a friend of mine, Danny Simsic. He was the drummer with a band called Real Life.
Spellbound: Oh, yeah, "Send Me An Angel."
Paul: Yep, and he rang me and said, "There's a band who are looking for a guitar player, it's an international band. You should do the audition for it." I got back to him after I got the message on my machine and I said, "Who is it?" And he said, "Icehouse." I said, "They're not going to want a guy like me." And he said, "Paul, you're perfect, you should do it. I'll give you my friend's number. Ring him up, talk to him, he's a really good guy. See if he'll take your tape." He gave me Steve Morgan's phone number.
So I rang Steve, went to see him, had a chat with him, and he was just a really good guy, really easy to talk to, so I felt okay about that, submitted a tape and a bit of a resumé. I thought, "Well, that's it, I'll probably never hear anything again," and then about ten days later I got a phone call from the Icehouse office in Sydney asking me a few questions. I gave what I hoped were the right answers and they said, "Okay," and hung up and I thought, "That'll probably be it," and then about another week later they called me. The audition was to be at one o'clock the next Saturday afternoon. They said, "You're one of three guys," and I said, "What do you want me to play?" and they said, "You'll get the tape in the morning by courier."
So they sent me a tape of "Mercy On The Boy" because Code Blue was just about to come out, "Can't Help Myself," and "We Can Get Together." They wanted me to learn those three songs and come and play them. So I learnt them like you've never believed anybody has learnt anything in their lives! I still hadn't spoken to Iva, Steve was the only one I'd had contact with. I had a gig the night before, but I took that off so I'd be feeling really good. I went to the audition the next day. I remember about an hour before the audition saying to the person I was living with, "I can't do it any more." They said, "You still have an hour." I said, "If I do anything more, I'll just know too much. I've almost overlearnt it to a point where I'm going to get worse so I've got to stop."
When I was driving down to the audition, I was feeling okay, but a bit nervous. I had never met Iva; I didn't know what kind of guy he'd be and he had a fair mystique about him so I was fairly nervous about the whole process. I got down there, and I don't know what it was, but whatever I was thinking at that time when I walked in, he and the others seemed to be talking about it. I just clicked straightaway on it; it was a fluky thing.
I played the songs through -- I remember at the end of playing one song Iva said something to the other two guys. There was only Paul and Steve there; Simon was there but he wasn't playing. I set up all my gear and one of my leads didn't work which is terribly embarrassing when you go to a big audition like that, and Simon went out and got another one for me. But everyone was really easygoing, it was really relaxed. I was probably overdressed and overstimulated for the whole experience as it turned out but I was really on and I wasn't going to blow it, you know, I just really felt confident.
I knew that they were auditioning three guys that day and that they had to go to Sydney and audition another seven guys, but it's the strangest thing -- I just knew I had it, straightaway. I'm not incredibly confident about a lot of stuff, but I've never felt anything like that about my life before or since. I just knew I had it. I just thought someone to beat me is going to have to be really good. This is me, this is exactly perfect. It was just a remarkable experience. I'd never had it since and I'd certainly never had it before. It was just a really good feeling.
Two days after the fact that I'd thought I'd got it, all my confidence is gone and now I'm thinking, "Oh no I didn't, I blew this, I did this, I shouldn't have done that," you know what I mean? I started to get a bit of self-doubt a couple of days later. It's probably a healthy thing I suppose but I didn't enjoy it.
Spellbound: How long did it take for them to get back to you and tell you that you had it?
Paul: I had to wait about a week or two, maybe two weeks because I think the next week they auditioned guys. I was still doing the country band, the Hodads, and I remember on the Friday night, about a week later, I was still awaiting news and not telling anybody what's happening of course, any of my friends or any of the people I work with. I'm keeping my mouth completely shut and trying to be really cool about it. What happened: I'm at the gig and the guy that Steve Morgan shares with comes into the gig and smiles at me and says, "If I was you I'd be packing my bag," and I said, "What are you talking about?" and he said, "I think you know." I said, "Now hang on a minute, I don't need this! I'm really kind of spun anyway, so don't set me up here for a fall." He said, "I'm not going to say anything but I think I've heard some pretty good news on your behalf." That kind of made it worse so then I had this sleepless night.
Then the next day Steve Morgan rings me and says, "I've got some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is you got the gig and the bad news is you better buy new road cases for all your gear. But I'm not supposed to tell you, Iva's going to ring you so you've got to hang out until then."
So then it was like -- oh, no. I'd only met Iva that day that I'd gone to the audition; I'd only been in the rehearsal room for 45 minutes so I don't know him at all. Anyway, he rang me from Sydney the next day and said, "It would be a bit of a trial." I was just stunned -- I was so happy as you can imagine. And then the night before I'm going to leave, I'm sitting at home and someone came to the door who shouldn't have been at the door. I'm thinking, "What is she doing here? I know this girl," but I only ever saw her out. She was sort of a friend of a friend. Before I know it the house is full of people. And everybody threw this huge party for me, stayed up really late because I was going away and didn't know how long I was going away for. I guess a lot of it had to do with that fact that for years I'd been hanging out and trying to make it and everybody saw it as a big break for me. So it was a really nice thing, a wonderful experience.
Spellbound: So, you went on the Code Blue tour. How was that?
Paul: It was great fun. I'd never done anything like that before; I had a great time. You probably know a lot about that, it went all the way around Australia and through the outback. That was really good fun. First I went to Sydney for four weeks to rehearse, every day thinking that if I blow this then they've got somebody else in line. But I wasn't going to blow it, you know what I mean? Everyone was so easy and nice about it that in the end I felt really comfortable with it.
Spellbound: There was a lot of trepidation because Bob Kretschmer was a popular member of the band and then he left, and a lot of people didn't know why because the only reason that was given was "Personal Reasons." So everyone's thinking, "Who's going to replace him? We're just going to have to see if this new guy works out!" So we sat on this side of the ocean and decided to wait and see what people would say once they'd gone to the concerts. When the reports started coming in, everyone was saying, "The new guy's so great!" Everybody thought you were a wonderful guitarist, and all the girls thought you were very cute.
Paul: [laughter] I didn't know much about Icehouse. I didn't have any of their records, but I certainly knew them from the radio. I had no real link with who was in the band apart from Iva. I knew they were really big, and I knew the names of people, but I didn't know anybody intimately so I didn't have a vision of the person I was replacing. In retrospect, that was a really good thing.
Spellbound: Because you'd then start to think about whose shoes you were filling.
Paul: Yeah, because I've since met a lot of people who were huge Bob Kretschmer fans. I assumed that he was important but I didn't know just how important he was to the whole thing. I'm glad that that was the case for me because I had no illusions. I remember very early on in the piece, though, there was a review of a show that we'd done -- it was the first major show that we did in Sydney. I got a real caning from the girl that did the review and I remember it really knocked my confidence badly for a little while.
Spellbound: Was that the Selina's show?
Paul: Yes, and I remember Iva pulling me aside and saying, "Look, you know she was probably just a huge fan of Bob's. Just go on doing what you're doing." It wasn't even so much playing, I knew how to play; it was playing new songs of course, but a lot of it had to do with stage craft and learning how to be in a bigger band. All of a sudden we're doing bigger shows and people are setting up all my gear for me and looking after me. It was just a whole different process.
Spellbound: We remember that review and that's right, she was always a big Bob Kretschmer fan. But it wasn't a matter of once you were there everybody forgot Bob, it was just that everybody accepted you very well. So there was no rough transition.
Paul: I think I was very lucky that that happened. I was just going to enjoy it. I was going to be as good as I possibly could be. Everybody around me was great, really friendly, and Iva was really good. I just felt really comfortable. There were no pop stars in the band. I don't know what I expected, but I expected that there would be some kind of egos, but there weren't.
Spellbound: So you see Icehouse as something you'd like to stick with?
Paul: I'd love to. I think that the last few years have been an extremely difficult time in the Australian music industry. It's difficult for a lot of different people. It's not just because it's been a difficult time for Icehouse in terms of trying to sell records and trying to get people to come to gigs. Everybody's struggling with this.
Since Icehouse I've worked with a lot of different acts. Icehouse opened up heaps of stuff for me. It would always be my first priority, always. Anytime I was working I would stop anything to do it. But the reality is for someone like me who's not a primary writer in the band, I have to work. If the band is not working I have to go and work with other people. And I've since worked with a lot of other fairly significant recording artists in this country and they're all struggling. They've all found it really hard.
After the Code Blue tour, Paul was kept very busy working with other popular Australian acts. He told us about those various jobs and one which could create future great Aussie guitarists.
Spellbound: We know you've worked with James Reyne quite a bit...
Paul: I did two years with James Reyne.
Spellbound: And you've worked with Rick Price...
Paul: Yeah, I did about a year with Rick. He went really well. He's probably one exception, he was a new act, but he struggled in the pubs. He couldn't get anyone to come and see him in a pub with a band. He ended up doing it solo because it was costing him too much money to try to keep a band on the road. Rick was more of a pop star kind of pin-up person, which is a bit of a shame because he's an incredibly talented guy and a fantastic singer. I think he's got a new record out now and I know he's going to try to aim for that so people will see he's a more contemporary recording artist. But then that's always a difficult transition for people, too, if they view someone as a pop star and then to take them seriously.
I think that's what made Icehouse so successful is that it did become a contemporary recording act that was loved on all levels, both from younger people who saw them as pop stars through to people who really like the music. A lot of that has to do with Iva's incredible writing skills.
Spellbound: You also worked with Debra Byrne.
Paul: Debra Byrne was a child star here in Australia, and then a big theatre star as well. In fact she got offered the lead for Les Miserables on Broadway but knocked her back because she has two young girls and didn't want to live in America. I toured most of last year with her.
Spellbound: And then there's Little Black Book.
Paul: Oh, God. See, a lot of these are little club bands, they were just fill-ins between one thing and another. A band like Little Black Book may not even have had a poster -- we worked a fair bit but we never had a poster. That was with Danny Simsic the drummer, and with Steve Morgan, and with this girl called Nicky Bennett. And with another guy who's now the keyboard player with John Farnham, whose name escapes me at the moment.
Spellbound: What kind of music did you guys do?
Paul: Oh, that was club funk stuff. That was just a fill-in in between the Icehouse tour and the James Reyne tour. For about five years, every time I walked off something I seemed to walk into something else. And probably that's stopped a bit in the last year, I've really found that difficult. But everyone is finding it really hard. I had probably six incredible years where I just walked from one thing to the next.
When I was coming off the Icehouse tour, I didn't know James Reyne or anybody in his band, but I just rang up his record company, found out who his publicist was, rang his publicist and said, "I'm wondering when James Reyne is going out and touring." She said, "He's actually coming in here today, leave me your number and I'll get him to call you." Because I'd been in Icehouse it certainly opened a significant number of doors.
He rang me that afternoon and I went to see him the next day. I had coffee with him and another guy. I met these two guys, James and a guy by the name of Brent Goldsmith who had a band here called the Chantoozies a number of years ago. They were really good mates and Brent was going to be the bass player in James' band. I walked into the restaurant to meet those guys and they'd just come back from the pool, and I was on the way home from the pool, too. That was just a coincidence and we just made the link by talking about swimming all the time because they swam every day and so did I. It was a lucky thing.
Two days later I went to James' place with a guitar to sit down with him and sing because he really wanted a guitar player in the band who could sing. He had another great guitar player already in the band. That kind of sealed the gig for me, and that started about two years of work with James, which was great. I had really good fun working with him, he's a really good guy.
There've been some different incarnations of the band throughout that time. A lot of people came and went but I stayed, so he gave me extra work and extra money for that. And then we went on and wrote some music for a movie with Jason Donovan in it called "Rough Diamonds." Then we wrote the music for a children's play here in Melbourne which the Melbourne Theatre Company put on called Blabbermouth which was based on an Australian children's book.
Most of the time during all of that tour I was also doing these lectures for a company called AusMusic -- the Australian Contemporary Music Development Company -- which is a federal government based thing. I did lectures on musical finance and life on the road, basic stuff for kids at TAFE colleges who were doing music management courses and also studying music. I did a lot of workshops for electric guitar, also for AusMusic. They had this training program for kids who were in youth training centers like boys' homes and also prisons.
Spellbound: Didn't you also do a video for this?
Paul: Yeah, I'm finishing that up at the moment. In fact, the last shoot for that is next Monday.
Spellbound: Sort of an instructional video on how to...
Paul: Yeah, it's just a really basic "how to play electric guitar" video. It's been sold to the Education Department in Australia and in a couple of other countries. Myself and another guy have written a 200 page instructional booklet for it. Really basic, with a training video which I've been doing. That's been a lot of fun, too. It's not like "Guitar Hot Licks" that they have out; it's really for kids who are 13 like I was and wanted to play the electric guitar and didn't know where you plugged it in and why and what worked and how you made it work. It's really basic stuff, but it's been really great fun doing it because it's been a chance to break down the myth a little bit.
Spellbound: That's great -- think about all the kids that you'll inspire!
We then asked Paul to name an Icehouse concert that was special to him and he took us back to AusMusic '90. From there, he revealed that he, too, had a musical circle to complete.
Paul: I think the best concert was the AusMusic concert that we did with Crowded House and Kate Ceberano at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. It was at the very end of the Code Blue tour, and it was just a great concert. There were a lot of people, and live to television and live to radio. It was a personal highlight for me to play in front of that many people with the band that went on last. It was just a great buzz, fantastic fun. You've probably only got two songs on video. I don't think they ever released the whole concert on video, did they?
Spellbound: We got "Miss Divine" and "We Can Get Together."
Paul: No, there was a whole concert. It was an hour, but they didn't put it to air. That was a real highlight, that was great fun.
Spellbound: So what are you up to now?
Paul: I'm just working around Melbourne with whoever will have me. That involves probably one studio thing a fortnight, not a lot. I do lots of gigs, probably four or five nights a week in different bars, nearly always playing acoustic guitar. I'm really enjoying that at the moment. I'm about to start studying Spanish guitar, Flamenco, because I really love that. I keep hearing it all the time. I'm really inspired by this movie I just went to see called "Latchodrom" which is a movie about the Gypsies moving from northern India in the 9th Century, right through to Hungary, Romania, France, and ending up in Spain and becoming Flamenco musicians. When I think back to Santana, there's a lot of that in there as well, that Spanish influence and the phrasing and the style and the way he plays. That's what I first loved and I think a circle is being completed for me, too, in terms of coming back and liking that stuff.
Spellbound: What do you think you will do with it?
Paul: I don't know, but for the last six years, a lot of the stuff I've played, I've played as a job and really enjoyed it and worked with a lot of great people. Right now, a job doesn't exist for someone like me because bands just don't tour anymore at this point, so I've become a little bit redundant. That's why I've tended to work in town and I've found plenty of work around Melbourne. That's good -- I'm lucky in that respect because a lot of people are struggling in that sense. While that's the case, I think it's time to regroup and go and learn something that I really want. Take time out to play music for music's sake, rather than play it for a living.
Spellbound: Do it for the love instead of the money.
We'd like to thank Paul for his time and for being so easy to talk with! We think love has won out over money.