Mick Thomas‘ Roving Commission are back in Western Australia for what’s becoming a festive season tradition.
The band are playing three dates this coming weekend:
Support act is the wonderfully talented local singer-songwriter Carla Geneve.
MTRC have a new seven-track EP out and about – ‘Back In The Day’. It’s a mixture of reworked Weddings, Parties, Anything and Mick Thomas and the Sure Thing tracks, plus some others from The Saints, Johnny Thunders, and Neil Young & Crazy Horse. It’s a teaser for a 2023 album in the works titled ‘Where Only Memory Can Find You’.
On Monday 12 December in Fremantle time for the interviewers, and just a tick or three of the clock into Tuesday for the interviewee in Melbourne, Mick generously gave some of his time at the witching hour to talk with Frank Hodges and Bill Quinn from 107.9FM Radio Fremantle about the upcoming dates in WA.
Bill Quinn: Hopefully on Saturday we can bung on some balmy weather, but joining as from the cold, Siberian-like/Arctic wasteland that is Melbourne, we can say hello, good evening, Mick Thomas.
Mick Thomas: Hello to you.
BQ: Is it as bad over there as we’re hearing? Is it really, really cold?
MT: It’s too cold for this time of year, in my opinion.
BQ: Mick, before we dive into questions about the EP and the upcoming album and the gigs, I’ve got a bit of a confession. In the last ten years or so, I’ve lost track of the Mick Thomas story since the days when I was part of the furniture at the Illawarra Folk Festival – where you were always a very welcome visitor to the Slacky Flat Pavilion.
Can you just fill us in with what you’ve been up to in the last ten years or so?
MT: I’ve been making records and putting together bands, different bands. Yeah, I just kept making music; that’s my thing. That’s why I keep making records.
The new thing is The Roving Commission which is me and Wally [‘Mark “Squeezebox Wally” Wallace] who was in the Weddings with me – Weddings, Parties, Anything. Wally came back into it and had a big part – a big role in it.
We thought we wanted a second singer in it, so we’ve run through a bunch from Shelley Short to Ayleen O’Hanlon to Jac Tonks to Brooke Russell. And we finally ended up with Brooke Taylor who’s there at the moment, and she’s sort of killing it, and we really like that.
So I really like that second singer. We’ve played lots, we’ve made some records during the lockdowns of Melbourne, which is something you guys in Perth didn’t get.
But we got it. It was pretty big and it was pretty strong, and it really affected us. But we made a couple of records. And we made them in our back rooms and we sent our files to each other. It was a big deal.
BQ: I was reading online that you had an album launch – a virtual album launch – in 2020. How did that go? I’m inferring it wasn’t the same, being in front of a static camera without the audience.
MT: Of course it wasn’t, but look, people were very generous. People bought stuff online, and to me it was: glass half full, half empty. There were good things about it. I was allowed to go to the post office every day, and I was going there every day: filling up orders, posting stuff.
It was really kind of beautiful that people supported it, and people were really happy about it. I mean, Brooke who’s in our band, she released her record in the middle of the lockdown. It wasn’t all bad. People bought the record. People were interested. Stuff happened.
BQ: You’re already about a month into the tour. Have you been finding as you go around that different people, different places are in different stages of the pandemic? Has it affected your gigs?
MT: It certainly has affected the gigs. People are wanting [Covid] to be gone; people are saying it’s gone. But every time you get to a gig, someone’s got Covid, someone didn’t come because they’ve got Covid. Sometimes that’s the support band.
It’ll never return to pre-pandemic stages of our lives, and it’s like, “It is what it is.” It’s still kind of tricky and it’s hard, you know?
My god; give us a break!
BQ: My co-host Frank has got your list of dates there.
Frank Hodges: Mick, you’re pretty regular at this time of year over here. You’re usually here at the Fremantle Navy Club. Last time I would have seen you would have been at the Navy Club, and before that at Fairbridge [Festival], but unfortunately there’s no more Fairbridge.
BQ: You’ve played Margaret River before have you, Mick?
MT: I certainly have, but not for the last few years, so that’s gonna be fun. We’ve sold a few tickets; that’s looking like it’s going to be good. The Oxford’s sold out on the Sunday, but the Navy Club’s going really close to selling out, ladies and gentlemen, so get on it.
And The River’s going to be really good, so I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve always loved that drive, so it’s going to be great.
BQ: And you’ve got Carla Geneve supporting you. Are you familiar with Carla?
MT: She is so good. So good. I mean. I’m so rapt that I’m going to see her three nights in a row.
I’m in this for the music, right? I just know that the 23 dates that we opened for U2 back in whenever it was, I watched them every night. Fourteen dates that I had with Billy Bragg, I watched him every night. And I remember one night in the middle of the tour in America, we got bumped in New York and Michelle Shocked, she had crazy choir. She’s going to open for Billy Bragg tonight so we don’t get to play. I know that one night on that tour, me and Wally went and watched Billy Bragg that night. Because we’re fans.
So I know that Carla Geneve is going to open for us for three nights. I’m going to watch her every night.
She’s a gun. She’s an absolute gun.
BQ: Something very special. I saw her very recently at a series called ‘Tender Is The Night’ and she performed with a four-piece string quartet.
BQ: And it was something different; it was sensational stuff. You’ve got the power of her music already then backed up with the strings – it was just fantastic.
BQ: Talking about your own band, tell us about your current lineup.
MT: The rhythm section is Dave Foley who’s a top drummer. He plays with Tex Perkins and a few other people. Ben Franz who probably you know is no stranger to Western Australia because he’s in The Waifs. Then Squeezebox Wally – he’s been there forever, back to the Weddings days. Brooke Taylor is like our secret weapon in the forward pocket.
She’s a gun. She writes, she sings, she’s the real thing. She presents, you know?
BQ: And this EP is a forerunner to the new album that’s coming out: Where Only Memory Can Find You. And the single is ‘Back In The Day’ which will be on the album.
MT: Yeah, the single will be on the album for sure. It’s about how do you address your past. It’s about looking back but looking forward.
BQ: We’re looking forward to it very much. Just a few more tickets left [at the Fremantle Navy Club] and then she’ll be a sellout, you reckon?
FH: I hope there’s a spot for us!
MT: I’ll look after you guys.
BQ: Mick, thank you so much for being up after midnight – but that’s rock and roll time, isn’t it?
Thanks again, and we’ll see you Saturday night.