National Folk Festival – Wheeze and Suck Band – interview with Tony Pyrzakowski, 2013

Image courtesy of the Wheeze and Suck Band
Image courtesy of the Wheeze and Suck Band

This interview originally appeared on Timber and Steel in March 2013:

Wheeze and Suck Band have since wound up, and a cut-down version of the band perform as Traditional Graffiti. Tony Pyrzakowski performs with Butch Hooper as Hooper and O’Toole.

As I’ve said many a time on stage and in print, I don’t even try to have a veneer of objectivity when it comes to some bands.

They’re just my favourites, and I adore their music and I’ll hunt them down at every festival and sing along, and sometimes dance along, and that’s just the way it is and ever shall be, Wheezer World without end, amen.

So yeah, I quite like the Wheeze and Suck Band.

There, we’ve got that bit established.

If you think age shall weary them, just click on the video link below and suspend disbelief. It says so much with music and dance in this shaky clip I took at St Albans Folk Festival from a couple of years ago (usually held on an Anzac Day weekend — put it in your calendar now; thank me later) is the range of ages the Wheezers appeal to.

What child could resist jumping around to a bunch of men in funny hats and cloaks? And that’s for the young at heart and the young in the head.

And the young in age.

It’s enough to even make you groan with empathy (and maybe a little sympathy) to John ‘Red Tips’ Milce’s jokes, trotted out at irregular intervals in pure Lancashire-ish.

Fiddler-player Tony Pyzarkowski is one third of a regular trio along with Butch Hooper and Kevin ‘Bodhranworld dot com‘ Kelly who form “Kelly’s Heroes” and bash out three hours of stuff you probably know, stuff you may know and stuff you may not have heard of in PJ O’Brien’s pub in Sydney every Sunday night from 6-9pm. (No chance on Easter Sunday — that’s National Folk Festival central.)

After last Sunday’s session, Tony had a bit of a chat about what’s going on with the Wheezers and looked forward to the National Folk Festival starting this Thursday 28 March 2013 in Canberra.

Image courtesy of Wheeze and Suck Band

Bill Quinn: Timber and Steel is all about nu-folk, but we don’t mind our old folk. I’m here with one of the… no, he’s not that old!

Wheeze and Suck Band is one of my favourite bands and have been for a long time. I’ve got one-fifth of them here: Tony Pyrzakowski, hello.

Tony Pyrzakowski: Oh hi, Bill, how are you? Lovely talking to you again.

BQ: As always. Tony, Wheeze and Suck Band have been around for how long?

TP: As far as I know, they’ve been around for 20 years or so. I’ve been with them for about 10. And we’ve got a terrific lineup; it’s been the same lineup for about six, seven years, and it’s really going well. It’s just a brilliant lineup, fantastic.

BQ: In that six or seven years, the sound’s changed a little bit, hasn’t it, going back to previous incarnations?

TP: Well, that’s right, because we started off as an English band, and were doing a lot of Morris tunes and English songs, but now Ian [Macintosh]’s the head writer, the main writer, he’s writing his own songs and he’s fantastic, he’s such a good writer. And I’m writing all the tunes, and we’re working out the arrangements together.

So it’s just changing the focus now; it’s still in the English style, which is really important. We don’t do diddly, we don’t do Irish; it’s all English, so we’re retaining that style, and it’s working really well.

Image courtesy of Wheeze and Suck Band

BQ: In mentioning that, I remember a couple of years ago you were on at The Turning Wave, the Irish Australian festival, and I looked at the program and went, Ey up, here’s a turn of events! But you got in there under the ‘Crossing Borders’ category.

TP: Ah, ‘Crossing Borders’. Yes, I mean, we’re all Celts, after all. Celtic music spans Europe and England as well.

No, it was great. The reason why they got us in is we’re terrific showmen as you know, and anywhere we play we always get people involved and dancing. And one of the nicest, the most brilliant times I’ve had was at the National Folk Festival, at the Session Bar, and we just set up and we had such a huge crowd. We had belly dancers with us, we had tango dancers joining us, and I got everybody to join in, and it was a very special two and a half hours. I think it was early in the morning. Just fantastic.

BQ: That is the beauty of the National, isn’t it? Because there’s so many different performance spaces, but that Session Bar just creates all sorts of magic.

TP: It’s an amazing place, because you have groups of people sitting virtually shoulder to shoulder, playing different sorts of music and enjoying their music, and you can’t here anybody else, and it heaves with people. People moving around, joining with your music, joining with other peoples’ music, and it’s just a fabulous collaboration.

BQ: And you guys are going to be at the [2013] National Folk Festival, starting on the Friday?

TP: We certainly are. We’ve got a gig on Friday night and Saturday night, and then Sunday night. So we’ve got three gigs, really looking forward to it. Ready to go, ready to rock and roll.

Image courtesy of Wheeze and Suck Band

BQ: And if you can’t catch up with them at one of those sessions, and of course you should, but if you can’t then find them in the Session Bar anywhere from about 10pm through til about five?

TP: Absolutely, we’ll be there. And Bill will be there, of course, won’t you, Bill?

BQ: I shall. I’ll be appearing in front of the bar up until midnight, and under the bar afterwards!

But this is all about you, Tony. Your last amazing album is Flash Lads; have you got anything else in the pipeline?

TP: We certainly have; we’ve got a recent EP, an eight-track recording which is called Wheeze and Onion.

BQ: Of course!

TP: Of course, Bill. You forgot about that!

And the other day when we were practising, Ian brought out our set list from over the years, and we’ve got so much material. Old material, that’s fine: we’ve done it before. But we’re looking at the National Folk Festival and thinking we’ve got to bring in some new stuff.

We’ve got a heap of new stuff. Ian’s written some new songs, I’ve written some new tunes, and we just need to go into a recording studio. We’ve got so much material and it’s great. The arrangements are changing, we’re doing different rhythms, different styles, but still keeping, retaining that English feel. So, look, it’s so exciting. So we’ve got to get into a studio some time.

BQ: National Folk Festival, look out for them on the program: the Wheeze and Suck Band. Thanks for joining us, Tony.

TP: Good on you, Bill. Nice talking to you.

Image courtesy of Wheeze and Suck Band

The Wheeze and Suck Band at the National Folk Festival:

Friday 29 March 2013 – The Majestic, 10pm
Saturday 30 March 2013 – Scrumpy, 10pm
Sunday 31 March 2013 – Marqee, 5pm

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