interview



This interview is from the March 1983 edition of OUI magazine. The interview was conducted by Dian Hanson and is reprinted without permission.



Up from Down Under comes the rockinest, fightinist new band from Road Warrior land.

Rose Tattoo



It's a hundred degrees on the dance floor and the crowd packs in closer. Greasy leathers nudge damp t-shirts, jockeying for a few more inches, a step or two deeper into the tooth-jarring roar of the amps. No one's dancing, though the music's an energizing blend of heavy metal and solid Sixties beer-hall rock; no one's dancing because the crowd is 90 percent male and this ain't San Francisco. It's a cavernous Connecticut music bar and on stage the writhing, wailing tattooed man hads left off singing and begun to foment a revolution.

"You're the people! That's POWER! You're the people! That's POWER!" he bellows and the crowd of drunken Connecticutters responds with a thrusting, sweaty fist salute.

"We need a revolution" says Angry Anderson, "and rock 'n' roll's not a bad way to start it." Five-foot-one-and-a-half tall, cue-ball bald, tattooed and earringed Anderson is the snarling force (his talent's listed as "throat" on their first album) fronting Australian band Rose Tattoo. Though he describes their sound as "good old bluesy rock 'n' roll" their look is "Clockwork Orange" meets "The Illustrated Man" with two members sporting skinhead droog cuts and all of them showing more ink than an accountant's convention. "Got tattooed arms and rings in my ears, never gonna suffer a straight man's fears" runs a line from Anderson's Aussie hit, "One Of The Boys", showing his mastery of the writing-from-life school.

On this first American tour to promote their current Atlantic/Mirage release "Scarred For Life", the Tatts already have a strong following in outlaw sectors. The Connecticut fist hoisters are seeing them live for the first time, but the basic trash and burn, working class power fantasies are universal enough to make instant converts. Especially when combined with Anderson's political zeal.

Born 36 years ago in the shadow of Melbourne's Pendridge Jail, Anderson' earliest memories were of proletariat powerlessness, of oppression for the comfort of wealthier classes and of hatred for the authority figures they hired to keep bad boys like himself in line. It's little wonder that his only official visit to his neighborhood prison was for assaulting a policeman. Anderson advocates overthrow of his country's present government, and of all governments that, in his view, enslave and deceive the working man. He's a rock 'n' roll prophet like we've not seen since the conscientious Sixties, with a message fine tuned for America's depression de jour. But fortunately, never at the expense of his music. He delivers his raw, boys-night-out ballads with the sort of throat rending roar that sparked the grim prognosis for Janis Joplin's vocal cords, before she beat 'em to the grave. His back-up is tight, loud and speedy, all combining to create the kind of hard-driving man's band that could make a thousand young Connecticut males leave their best girls home on a Saturday night.

OUI got down to brass knucks with Angry Anderson over a couple of quarts of Foster's after a requested visit to New York's famed Melody Burlesque.



You've used tattoos, in your songs, the name of the band, certainly on your bodies, as a strong symbol. Where does it come from?
There's a certain section of any society that is really attracted by them, excited by them. Usually it's by the association. Tattoos have always been associated with a sort of dangerous fringe, if you like. And where I grew up if you didn't have tattoos as soon as you left school, if you didn't have a tattoo very soon after you left, then you weren't included in the local gang and you found it difficult to associate with other people. If you weren't in a gang it meant you were either a poofter, or a faggot. Which meant that you stayed home. Or you were dominated by your parents and then you had to stay home as well, or that you were just tougher than everyone else and that didn't happen much.

Where did you grow up? Where is this Tougher Than Thou place?
The southern-most city in Australia, Melbourne, in Victoria.

And what did the gangs do besides get tattoos?
Steal cars. Bash people. Rob shops.

You're tattooed. I assume you were in the gangs. When did you get in the first one?
At school. It was the only way to survive. The different forms were divided into different gangs, like, they used to have A and B, that's a form, and C and D. I was alwys in E or F, or G and H, which was the bottom rung. That's how they used to grade you. School was a waste of time for me.

What was your gang name?
Mouse. Mickey Mouse. When I got bigger, I became Rat.

Give us an example of schoolboy gang activities. Fun and games.
There was a term that was used to describe your abilities, that was "having or not having form." A similar term is "class". Right after I joined Third Form two or three guys and myself decided to rob the school tack shop. Every Friday night for a month we did it.

What did you take?
Everything. And that was considered good form. Actually what we did when we robbed the shop is we broke all the fridges open, pulled out all the pipes, all the sausage rolls, all the cakes, all the lollies. Made malted milks. And we just sat in there for about three or four hours, brought our own cigarettes and we always had a party. We did that every Friday night until they woke up.

How old were you at the time?
I was 14.

Did you get caught at the end of the month?
No. Never got caught. I've only ever been to jail for assault. A policeman. That was years and years later.

What you're describing sounds so much like the violent Australian image we're seeing in recent films. Do films like "Road Warrior" accurately depict anything of the Aussie gang mentality?
Well. we got a thing we call Revheads, or Petrolheads, and they are usually country kids. They buy old cars, old V8's, and hot 'em up so most 'em aren't roadworthy. They can't register them. And they drive out on the back roads, back country roads, and they have drag races and just generally pump away at a hundred miles plus, right, with those V8 cars. The country cops make great sport out of chasing them and catching them. And so it's quite loosely based on something, very, very loosely based. What "Mad Max", what you call "Road Warrior" is about is a slight thing that already exists, taken to it's extremes, in years to come. Because there are real maniacs at home. Petrolheads. Bikers as well.

And they steal and plunder to keep the cars going?
Oh yeah. I got a mate, who used to, um, not control a gang, but he was a very heavy guy. He used to specialize in stealing Honda Fours and big super bikes, the faster the better. These kids, there was three or four of 'em, they could strip a bike, have it packaged, like, grab a bike off the street, ride it to a garage, all the numbers would fall off it, within an hour and a half. Christ, they'd sell the bike back in the first hour.

How did you find time to get into music with all this fun?
Our biggest heroes we're in rock 'n' roll. Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Elvis, the ultimate fantasy was to rock 'n' roll. My first musical influence was when I was seven, eight, nine years old. My uncle was a drummer in a band, a swing, boogie band, Glenn Miller type stuff. He used to take me to see gigs because my old man was never around. He helped bring me up.

Because you're parents we're divorced?
No. No. The old man just quit. He used to come back every now and again and make life hell for a while. Then when he'd sort of fucked us up enough, he'd split again.

When did the music get serious?
Round about 16. Just after I left school. I met some guys in school who played guitar and stuff. We used to play guitars and sing, but it was always like imitation stuff, because it was secondary.

Secondary to what?
My hanging out. Being tough. Getting bashed up.

What did you fight with? What kind of weapons?
We got all of them.

Were there deaths?
Yeah, on the first album there's a song called "Butcher & Fast Eddy". That's not their real names, but that actually happened. It was the summer period of '65, '66.

That song is about a fatal showdown. Did you see that fight?
Only two people saw that fight and one of them is dead. It was a gang thing that went out of hand, went on and on, and more people were getting hurt. It's probably only about 20 people who know who the Butcher is and that he did it.

And you're one?
Well I knew him. He just went gambling one night and waited for this guy, 'cause this other leader wouldn't let it rest, kept it up, kept it up. They violated the worst law of all. The city was always neutral. If you were caught in the city you didn't have to worry about being out of your territory, because all the gangs, they came from the districts. Where I came from was Coburg, so we were Coburg Boys. Our neighboring district was Brunswick, they were Brunswick Boys, and so on. And in the end, Fast Eddy didn't respect the neutrality of the city.

See, it was part of a thing that happened in Melbourne in '64 and spread throughout the country. It was a cult thing against long-hairs, called Sharpies. Sharpies is an old Australian term for a guy who lives at the race track, and they're always really nattily dressed and they're always smooth-talking who never work but always had a quid. The teenagers picked up this thing Sharpie and we always used to dress real well. Crips-knit jumpers and T-shirts and really expensive twin-set cardigans, hand-made Italian shoes, get our trousers made, and we all had crewcuts, right? You'll notice two guys in the band got what they call a Droog, or a skinhead cut still real short, with tails. This whole cult thing grew up and lasted from '64 to '69. Then the cops stamped it right out.

Why?
Because too many people were getting really hurt and killed and stuff. The English had started this thing called Skinheads and it was ultraviolence. It came over to Australia because a lot of English kids brought it with them and you had kids walking the streets of Melbourne dressed like "Clockwork Orange". They started doing really stupid things like throwing petrol at winos and setting them on fire. Throwing fire bombs in police cars and stuff. So the cops cracked down really heavily and stamped it right out, which was good.

Do you identify with those groups still today?
Yeah. They're my peers. They're the kind of people I grew up with. It's the kind of lifestyle I understand. It's being one of the boys. Because you had to be. If you weren't one of the boys, you we're fucked.

Do you foresee the day when being "one of the boys" will no longer be important?
No, 'cause one of the boys is part of your soul and once you have been you'll never be anything else. The only way not to be so is to consciously reject all the values that you learned when you were a kid. There's no way I can do that, I'm too old. I believe in them too strongly. It wouldn't matter if I was president of the fucking country, I'd still be one of the boys.

Lets get back to tattoos and how the band got its name and its members got so inked up. Did more tattoos give a gang member more status?
Well, in the old days, yeah. The guys that had the more tattoos were the toughest guys. Plus the fact that you always got tattooed when you went to jail. So a lot of the guys had a lot of boob tatts.

Boob tatts. You mean on their...
When you go to jail in Australia it's called going to the boob. Or you have boob weed, which is back alley smoke, and you got boob goons.

How did you decide on the name Rose Tattoo?
Peter Wells formed the band and he picked the name because he wanted a bunch of tattooed guys to play rock 'n' roll. Because he knew that tattooed guys usually are, in the main, pretty tough people, working class background, service record, criminal record. We chose the name for the same reason Led Zeppelin chose their name, because it's yin and yang. On the one side you got something infinitely feminine and delicate and on the other side you got something infinitely masculine and brutal. Rose and Tattoo.

You try to embody that in your music?
That was the whole point of having the name. It's a spiritual thing, which has only got to do with the guys in the band. We don't try to influence people who buy our records to understand or become part of it, because we know they're affected by it subconsciously if they listen to the music.

So how was a gang-fantasy band first accepted in Australia?
Never been accepted. We're always viewed as a dangerous element in Australia.

We heard you were banned from an Australian TV show.
Oh did ya? There's a huge national teenage kid's show called "Countdown" and one day we were doing it and we all got quite pissed (drunk), rehearsing over about five or six hours, and it came to the final take and we were feeling in a very, very frivolous mood. We were just fooling around and it came to a solo in the song and I thought the cameras were all on Peter, so Mick and I were - I had my arm around him and we were sort of jumping around on stage - and I kissed him. And it was there. It filled the screen. My tongue disappearing down his throat. We got branded homosexuals, and fucking church leaders, fucking teachers groups, fucking just everyone, rang up and wrote petitions and said, "Never let them on television again." We weren't on television after that for years. We're the only band that's ever been banned for life from "Countdown". The hypocrisy of it all is, now they want to put Rose Tattoo video clips back on, but they won't have us live because they don't trust us.

Did you demand that prospective members have tattoos before they could join the band?
Yeah. There were even guys who came along and got the job and we said, "Well now, what about it!" They said "No," so we said "Piss off!"

Anybody you wish you had kept?
No, this is the best band we could possibly have come up with.

Do you worry about getting your Australian working class image over in America, where they don't understand Droog haircuts?
I think if you look at the band, you look at the image, and you go "Whoah!" And you're affected by it. The public's interest will stimulate the desire to seek out why do these five guys look like that and why do they play like this. As long as the interest is there, they'll make it their business to find out the rest.

Where did you get the name Angry? You seem like a pretty friendly guy.
Oh, I can be a real mean guy. When it needs to be. See, like, I've had Angry as a nickname for years. It was given me by a really close friend who I used to live with and we did a lot of really unscrupulous things together. He was a real, real bad guy in most people's eyes. Society-wise, he was a gangster.

A real gangster?
Oh yeah, he was a criminal. His nickname was Mangy Mick. My name was Rat, that was an old boyhood name. So he called me the Angry Rat and I used to say to him, "Don't fuckin' call me Rat! I hated it then and I hate it now!" So he nicknamed me the Angry Ant, but people just dropped the "Ant" and after a couple of years everybody I and Mick knew just called me Angry. At that time, since he was such a heavy dude and I was going through a flashback heavy period, we were hanging out with some pretty heavy people.

You were genuinely angry then.
Yeah, I was more physically violent then, to the point where it was serious.

What would make you physically violent?
In those days, it was just the people we dealt with. If they don't behave, they don't pay up, they order something off you and you deliver it and they don't pay.

Has success made you a less angry person?
No, it's made me worse. That was like ten years ago, couple more, it'll be ten years. I haven't been a physically violent person for a lot of years. See, being five-foot-one-and-a-half, I was born with a chip on my shoulder. Bigger guys are always picking on smaller guys and little guys always got these twisted egos and think they got to prove themselves all the time. So I suffered under that for years and years and years. But I don't suffer under that anymore. How I'm angry now, and how I still enjoy the name, is because I'm now more interested in the stability of the human race, more interested in the welfare of my fucking country.

How is your country faring in this international recession?
Not real well. Not real well. It's got a real fucked government. The government's totally, absolutely fucked!

What would you advocate to make Australia straight?
Get rid of the government, and most of the unions. Put sincere, honest union men back in charge, because the guys who are in charge of the unions are in charge of the country, in any country. And the union leaders in Australia, they all live in big houses.

In your physically violent period were you into fists or weapons?
Anything I could grab ahold of. When you're my size you don't worry about shaping up to someone. You say, "No, no no, forget it" and when they're lookin' the other way you hit them with an ashtray or a chair or anything else you can get ahold of.

Ever do anything you regret in that period?
Yeah. Quite a few things. There'd be a few I'd like to change. Permanent damage.

You've been defined as a lifestyle band. Do you encourage your lifestyle in others?
No. No, we don't. That's why it's always very uncomfortable for us when they say, "How do you feel about kids being impressed by it to the point where they'll model themselves after you?" I wouldn't want kids to do that, because a huge part of Rose Tattoo is fantasy. It's like going to watch "Mad Max". There's no way I'd want a kid of mine to grow up like "Mad Max".

Do you have groupies?
No, I don't think so. Me personally? I don't usually get what you call groupies. I have, um, mini-relationships.

Three, four hours?
Sometimes longer. (laughs) Six or eight. No, I usually find that chicks that are interested in me have done a lot of soul-searching before they actually walk up to me, because more than any other guy in the band, I think chicks are more repulsed by me, or more intimidated by me. I don't care. If I really want to go out and get a fuck, I can get one. But as far as a girl falling...See, Rose Tattoo's a man's band. It's built with men, it's built for men, it's built because of men. It's a man's band. I've said this a thousand times and I'll say it a thousand times again because it's relevant. We don't write a lot of songs about women because we don't relate to women. We relate to men on a personal basis. We write music about what we know and when I write about women in music, it's what I know about them. And I don't know much about them at all.

Mainly sexual relationships?
Yeah, and how they fuck my head up. How they fuck all the other guy's heads up. I write about women from a man's point of view.

What kind of girls do you attract, when it happens, then?
Girls who have got character and personality all their own. They're a bit more courageous, if you like. The kind of girl who walks up to a bar and stands beside you and goes. "Hello, can I buy you a drink?"

Do you prefer those strong personalities?
Yeah, because I've looked like this for years, so there's no way a chick can walk into a bar and size me up physically and be deceived.

Was it easier getting female fans in Europe where you weren't so well known?
No. In Britain and Europe tattoos are associated with violence and criminals and stuff, so we had a lot of chicks come to gigs, but they wouldn't relate to us on a first-hand basis. But at home, the chicks who get out and rock and roll, they're a bit more aggressive than other chicks. That's why you can walk up to a chick, buy her a drink, chit-chat for ten minutes and say, "Let's go." She'll sort of look at you and say, "What do you got in mind?" and you say "I want to fuck the pants off you" and she'll say, "Fine, let's go." Good lookers there too. Fuckin' good lookin. women.

What do you say to all those people who accuse you of promoting an antisocial image?
It is antisocial, totally, completely. And I wouldn't change it, I enjoy it. I revel in it. I cultivate it. I perpetuate it.

I'll bet you're popular with bikers.
Yes, one of my best friends in England is the president of the Hell's Angels, a guy called Jimmy the Toad, president of the Wolverhampton Hell's Angels, And they make all the other Hell's Angels in England look like, second class. See, I can relate to that, because I was a biker for a couple of years. I just didn't have the physical stature to keep up the lifestyle.

What was your club name?
The Vigilante's.

Hmm. Petrolheads?
Oh yeah. Bikers by are nature petrolheads. They're into killer speed in Australia, that's why they ride all the good Jap bikes.

Is Rose Tattoo into speed?
Yeah, we explore speed and we play faster than anybody else. That's our petrolheadness, if you like.

You don't consume speed?
Just fucks me up. We drink. A couple of years ago I was well on my way to a burn-out. I used to drink a bottle of vodka every performance. In the old days it was a bottle of rum or Scotch. I've collapsed in the middle of sets. Unconscious. had not been able to be revived. Like I was saying, it was either the music or the piss - the lifestyle, you know. We played at being a rock-'n'-roll band for long enough. I'd done all the rage and all the hanging out and being the darling of the parties. We drink a bit still, but nowhere near as much, nowhere near. One of the reasons we were always broke is because all the money we made we spent on fifths.

What did you expect when you came to do this photo shoot with the nude girl?
Not what I found. I thought it would either be two things: real spiffy, spiffy, spiffy, or it would be cheesy, because, see, I've read the magazine for years. I love stick books, I've got stacks of them.

Stick books?
Yeah, because you get one at home and you have a stick in your pants. You got a bar in your pants or you're boned up. Right? So I call them bone books, or stick books and it was just fucking was really good, because the whole thing was so fucking relaxed.

Did you ever dream about being in the stick books?
In the porno movies.

Who would you like to play opposite?
What's that chick? Oh, she's fucking beautiful. She is real snooty, I reckon, but I'd love to be in a stick movie with her. Brooke Shields! I would like to see her in a school uniform.

Uh, oh, telltale signs of a British background.
Oh no, schoolgirls at home. You've got no idea. There's a track on the new album called "Sydney Girls". I used to live just across the road, across a football park, from Sydney Girl's High School. Unbelievable! They wear the shortest skirts, little plaid skirts and white socks, short little skirts that just come over their bum and they all got long brown legs, lots of hair and big eyes. They're fantastic!

And all under age, huh?
Not all of them. Some are 16 and over.

Sixteen is the age of consent?
Yeah, if you're 16 you can't be got for statutory rape.

Which I understand you were once charged with. How old was the girl?
Well, one of them was...I think she had kicked into thirteen.

And you were? twenty-five?
Yeah.

Thirty-four?
Yeah.(laughs)

Did you know she was under age?
No. I had a fair idea. I didn't think she'd lay it on me, though. She backed out at the end.

You seemed to say it's happened more than once, though. Twice?
Yeah.

Three times?
Yeah.

FOUR?
Yeah.

Would you say you're mainly interested in younger women?
I love young girls. School girls. Isn't that everyone's ultimate fantasy?

Well, we've seen some interest in older women lately.
See. I treat all chicks the same. Very, very special, any chick. Even if it's just one night. Maybe she's a real rag, it doesn't matter to me, because from the time I'm with her to the time she leaves me, that's our time and I don't waste any of my time. I'm only here once, as far as I know, so I got to live it every second. Each chick I have, it's a romance, I'm in love, Even if it's just ten minutes backstage up against the wall, it's got to be love. It's got to be kissing and stuff. I treat them well and I got a reputation for it. At the same time, I have a reputation for being a real cunt. There's a lot of chicks at home who think I pick them off the beds and bash them and all sorts of things.

What?
Yeah, rape them and nail them to the bed. I've never done that stuff.

Does that bring you a masochist following?
Oh yeah. I've actually had them pick fights with me and start slapping me around. They say, "You don't like it? What are you going to do about it?" So then you deck them and they go "Oh Wow!" There's really a lot of strange women around.

Are biker chicks masochists?
No, biker chicks are usuually sort of, pardon the expression, pretty soulful-type women. They got a lot of substance to them. Plus the fact that they're associating with men who are really gutsy gutsy guys, that don't take shit and don't give shit. Most bikers are very cool people. The lunatics are just as much disliked by their peers as they are by society. They don't walk in other people's spaces, in the main. You shouldn't do that anywhere, anytime, to anybody, in your whole life. People do that every day and that's why the new album is called "Scarred For Life", because that's what it's all about, what we're talking about, all the things we've been talking about. This is what this album is dedicated to, of and for.

There's too many people who don't think. They're bumping into people and bruising them and hurting them and committing atrocities and crimes against them, governments belittling whole countries' heritages by making them do things because they're the government.

What will you do, Angry Anderson, if you get rich from rock 'n' roll, if the fantasy comes true?
The thing I want most out of life is to go to sea, to sail. It's one of the last great romantic things you can do, to go to sea under sail. No one has to fuck with you, no one has to fuck with anybody, because the sea is the only place, apart from space, that's not overpopulated. Like, you can get in a boat and sail it for years and you never have to sort of get in anybody's way. You can just really do it and it's fuckin' beautiful. Fuckin' beautiful.



Copyright 1983 by Laurant Publishing, Ltd.



1997-2007 by Peter Gormley

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