INTERVIEWS THE BABY ANIMALS|
HUSH YOU!In 1991, I was sixteen and in love with the BABY ANIMALS. It all began when I was watching MTV (back when they played videos) and the frightfully coiffed ADAM CURRY had announced the arrival of the next great rock band from "down under" (a couple of months earlier, CHRISTINA AMPHLETT and THE DIVINYLS had a hit with 'I TOUCH MYSELF'). With that, he introduced the BABY ANIMALS and their video 'PAINLESS'.
THE BABY ANIMALS BREAK THEIR SILENCE
WITH 'IL GRANDE SILENZIO'
THE QUIETEST ALBUM OF THEIR CAREER
SUZE DEMARCHI TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
What I saw knocked me out! In a rock stratosphere that was cluttered with power-balladry from the likes of NELSON, SLAUGHTER and an unreliable GUNS N' ROSES (USE YOUR ILLUSION I & II), the brash, punchy blues-based hard rock of the BABY ANIMALS was a Godsend! The band (DAVE LESLIE on guitars, EDDIE PARISE on bass, and FRANK CELENZA on drums) was super-tight, but the lead singer SUZE DEMARCHI was a whole new level of perfection for me as a rock vocalist. She sounded like ANNIE LENNOX fronting FREE. This girl was a lean, mean rock n' roll machine with super model looks and a pixie cut. On the strength of that video clip for 'PAINLESS', I had sworn up and down that rock n roll had found its next "goddess" after HEART started churning out soft rock for a living and PAT BENATAR had taken a stab at a "blooze" album.
Immediately after seeing the video for PAINLESS, I went out and bought their self-titled debut album on cassette. It was produced by the ultimate pop/rock producer MIKE CHAPMAN (BLONDIE, PAT BENATAR, THE SWEET), so I knew that I was in good hands as a listener. 'BABY ANIMALS' was a rollicking good time with standout cuts like the raucous opener 'RUSH YOU', the blistering 'EARLY WARNING', the confident, soulful swagger of 'PAINLESS', and the positively head-banging 'ONE TOO MANY'. Every track on the album sounded like a hit, but that was to be expected when you had a genius like CHAPMAN at the helm and that gravelly purr of SUZE DEMARCHI up front and center.
Despite my predictions, 1991 was the beginning of a shift in priorities for rock n roll in the United States. A couple of weeks after buying 'BABY ANIMALS', NIRVANA came along and black leather and pop sheen was replaced with plaid shirts and distorted guitars. Popsmarts took a beating (as did I, the first time I walked into a mosh pit) but I remained true to SUZE and the boys.
Despite the altered musical sound-scape in the States, the BABY ANIMALS returned in 1993 with their follow-up LP 'SHAVED AND DANGEROUS', this time under the wing of ED STASIUM (THE RAMONES, THE SMITHEREENS, and LIVING COLOUR). This time around, it took me a while to snatch this album up on cassette (this was 1993, remember?) but not long after it's release, I lucked out and found it in the $6.99 bin at SAM GOODY. 'SHAVED AND DANGEROUS' is a fine album that demonstrates a maturity in the songwriting of the band. This time around, DEMARCHI was issuing declaratives like 'DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO' as opposed to the kiss-offs issued on the first album. It was best to take 'SHAVED AND DANGEROUS' as a whole rather than as a collection of rock tunes with individual hit potential.
A couple of years after the release of 'SHAVED AND DANGEROUS', the bands label IMAGO folded and plans to release a third album were dashed. Other casualties of this fold included ROLLINS BAND and AIMEE MANN. Following SUZE's marriage to NUNO BETTENCOURT (of EXTREME), the BABY ANIMALS parted ways in 1996.
During the absence of the BABY ANIMALS, SUZE released her solo album 'TELELOVE' (produced by husband NUNO) in 1999. In the early 2000's there were whispers that ANDREW FARRIS of INXS had approached SUZE about replacing the late MICHAEL HUTCHENCE as the lead singer of that band. It sounded like a no-lose situation, but for some reason, plans changed and the FARRIS brothers opted to go the reality television route in securing a new vocalist.
Well, INXS can have their sissy lead singer!!! The BABY ANIMALS are BACK!!! Sure the road may have been rocky, but that's rock n roll. Unlike most rock n roll stories, no one ended up punching each other out or suing one another, so maybe it is safe to believe that their time apart had more to do with the time being wrong. The band has just released 'IL GRANDE SILENZIO' (LIBERATION BLUE ACOUSTIC SERIES) and if you are expecting the BABY ANIMALS to come out with their amps cranked up to "11", you'd better hold your horses. For 'IL GRANDE SILENZIO', standout tracks from the BABY ANIMALS past as well as DEMARCHI's solo material, are given the acoustic treatment and that smokin' alto of DEMARCHI's is brought down to a sexy whisper. Heaven!!! While fans of the BABY ANIMALS of yore may have hoped for a more four-to-the-floor approach, they don't have to wait long. SUZE and the boys are returning to the studio to cut an album of new material.
ROCKWIRED couldn't get on the phone with SUZE DEMARCHI fast enough talk about life,the universe and everything. Here is how it went.
I'm going to start off by saying that I'm excited to see you guys getting back together.
So are we. We're really looking forward to getting back into this whole thing again. Obviously the logistics of it will be hard just because everyone is scattered all over the world. We're just going to try to make it work somehow.
What got you and everyone else back on the same page to do BABY ANIMALS again?
LIBERATION (the label) kept asking me for years to do this acoustic album and I had always said 'no'. Then I finally decided to do it because I was talking to JUSTIN STANLEY about it and he had some very good ideas. With the suggestions that he had made, I had decided that it could be a lot of fun and somethng worth doing. I just didn't want to rehash the old stuff, but we did it in a way that everything sounds so different. Then DAVE came over and we recorded some stuff, then I went back to Australia and we all got in a room together and it just felt like it was the right time. The time was right to just start working together again.
You guys are currently working on new material, correct?
We are. The band is coming over in March and we are going to demo some songs. We have plenty of ideas, we've just got to demo them. We do intend to start recording an album within the next few months.
What's different this time around for the band as opposed to the begining?
There's really nothing that much different except that we've grown in different directions. We're all parents now. Everyone is a bit more accessible in every way. We're all a bit more patient and I think that comes with having kids. Other than that, the only thing that is different is that time has passed. We just did a tour of Australia and it felt like we had played together just few months ago rather than years. It was very odd.
In reading the production notes of your solo album 'TELELOVE', it looks like you pretty much had the guys from BABY ANIMALS with you.
Only DAVE. There might have been a couple of songs EDDIE co-wrote but no one else played on it.
I love that album! OPEN WINDOWS is my favorite track!
I like that one too.
A very magical song!
That's great! I haven't listened to that record in a very long time.
It's worth listening to again.
It's funny. When you work on something for a long time, you really don't want to go back there a lot of the time. With all of the records, you play them so much that you just get over them.
How did the journey begin for you musically? How did you know that music was what you were going to do and that there was no two ways about it?
I actually had no aspirations at all to do music until I went for an audition for this local Perth band. I got the gig and really had no idea what I was getting myself into until the first show. After the first show, that was when I had that moment when I realized that this was what I wanted to do, and I've felt that way ever since. I was seventeen years old.
And you didn't look back.
Not really. I've dabbled in other things and this is the thing that I really like to do the most. When I got into the studio doing the acoustic record, I just felt such relief like 'Thank God I know how to do this!' It was a really odd feeling because I hadn't been in the studio for a while. It was nice to get back in there.
In getting my questions together for this interview, I had no idea that you were a solo artist before BABY ANIMALS.
I was always in bands and then I got this record deal with EMI in the UK. My first love is rock - there's no two ways about that. That was what I always wanted to do. When I was signed to EMI I was doing this pop thing and my heart wasn't in it.
It didn't look like it. The one video I saw on YOUTUBE.
I had a lot of fun when I lived there (England) but I wasn't really going anywhere.
How did you hook up with the guys that would become the rest of the BABY ANIMALS?
I met FRANK CELENZA in the Perth music scene years ago when I first started. When I went back to Australia, he was the first person I called and he suggested this guy EDDIE PARISE who played bass. Once we had him onboard we audtioned a bunch of guitar players and we found DAVE LESLIE. It was pretty easy actually!
And then you guys went and recorded your self-titled debut album with MIKE CHAPMAN.
I had always heard horror stories about MIKE CHAPMAN.
Just that he's a real dictator in the studio.
He's the Commander. I quite like that. He really made you work hard. He really made you put your head down and get to it and he really got the most out of you that you could possibly give. That's his real craft. That's what he's really good at. He's really good with hooks and stuff but he's also really good at making you do the best that you possibly can. We did a lot of takes. I remember that. Once he got it, he knew that it was right and he was pretty adamant about it. I loved working with MIKE. He was really great. I learned a lot from him.
How do songs get written for this band?
It's sort of different for every song. For us, it's different now because the band sends me ideas from Australia. We're working seperately now. In the past, I would be in a room and I would have a melody and the band would be playing something and I would get an idea and we would just work on a song. Generally it came pretty quickly but there were a lot of songs that we had to sort of go over and over and over. We'd kind of have to whip it into shape, you know? And then it would change again once you got into the studio, because in the studio you really have to pull it apart. It takes a different shape. That's where a great producer comes into work as well as a great engineer. Songs came together pretty quickly but there was always fine tuning that needed to be done. In doing all of that, you've also got to know when to stop. I think that's very important in songwriting.
Talk about the band? What do you think each of them sort of brings to the table musically, creatively, or personality-wise?
DAVE LESLIE, the guitar player has always been the mediator, the guy that keeps things even. FRANK CELENZA (drummer) and EDDIE PARISE (bassist) have been playing together since they were kids. Those two are so simpatico that it's weird and eerie. They buy the same cars, they dress the same and they look the same. It's like they are twins. They have this unspoken chemistry thats really odd and it makes for this great rhythm section. Very tight! But they're just meat and potatoes, those guys. They just know how to play together. I remember EDDE VAN HALEN thinking that about FRANK and EDDIE and how similar the chemistry was with his brother. You can't buy that kind of simpatico that they have. The four of us together just works. I've played with other people, and I've worked with other people over the years and I don't get that same thing that I get with these guys. It's very easy to play with them. We're a little bit of a family. We've been through a lot together, we've got a lot of things we share that we haven't shared with anybody else. The whole band camaraderie is really great! It really makes you want to work together. I missed it. Those little bastards!
What music got to you growing up?
My brothers record collection, which was all heavy metal and ABBA. It's weird having all of this heavy metal and then ABBA.
It all goes together, kind of.
Yeah. I was a big ZEPPELIN fan and anything with a melody that I could sing along to. I was always a sucker for guitars and guitar-heavy music. I was also big fan of country music, like PATSY CLINE and JOHNNY CASH. I hear those melodies in the stuff that I'm writing now. It must be from all of that stuff that I listened to as a kid. It doesn't go away, it gets stored in there, you know?
In 1993, BABY ANIMALS released 'SHAVED AND DANGEROUS' which was produced by ED STASIUM. What was different this time?
ED was really sound-oriented. I don't know if he's as much a song-man as MIKE is, but he was really pedantic about making sure that tuning and everything was really precise. It was a really different approach. The approach was more mechanical than MIKE's. It was great to work with both of them. They had very interesting pedigrees.
It seems like MIKE CHAPMAN was the genius when it came to the 2 minute-fifty second pop tune and ED STASIUM was more of an album rock producer.
They both had different ideas of what an album is. MIKE looked at it song by song. With MIKE we didn't go into the studio until we had done a lot of pre-production. We didn't do as much with ED.
And is 'SHAVED AND DANGEROUS' the album where you met NUNO (BETTENCOURT)?
We met at the end of the first record. We met in London and I was scheduled to start recording in New York. We met in December of '92 and then we started recording in January of '93. He was sneaking around then!
He also worked with you on 'TELELOVE'.
Yeah, he produced it, which worked out really good because we had just had a baby and I love the way NUNO works and we just wanted to be together. I didn't want anyone else working on it. We could just all hang out together and it worked out good. It's hard because we both have very particular ideas about how we like things to sound. I'm a bit of a 'boss' and so is he. I think it's great for us to keep our working relationship on a certain level. When we work together, NUNO kind of takes over and I get a little bit lazy when that happens, because he is so capable.
The BABY ANIMALS were real road dogs when you came out. You toured with BRYAN ADAMS, VAN HALEN, THE BLACK CROWES - Who was your favorite to tour with?
ROBERT PLANT actually. The VAN HALEN tour was pretty fun but the ROBERT PLANT tour was cool too. They were all great actually. THE BLACK CROWES, we only did a few shows with them. We didn't tour with them.
The members of INXS approached you about becoming their new lead singer, before they decided to do the ROCKSTAR: INXS thing.
Yeah they did. We talked about it for two years back and forth. I was actually noncommittal and ANDREW (FARRIS of INXS) and I just decided to write together with nothing in our heads other than to write songs and see what we come up with and work it out from there. At the end, I thought, 'Okay, I'll give it a go', and then I got a call saying that they were going to do the TV show (ROCKSTAR: INXS) and I said 'What are you doing? Why are you doing that?'. After that I said 'Okay, good luck with everything!'. It wasn't meant to be. I love ANDREW, I love writing him. I kind of wish that they hadn't done it, but that's because I just wanted them to make a killer record. It probably would've been really great, but they might next time.
What was the best advice you ever received? About anything.
Never lose your sense of humour.
What music are you listening to these days?
I can't stop playing RAISING SAND, that ROBERT PLANT and ALLISON KRAUSE record. I just love it! It's really a beautiful combination of voices. T-BONE BURNETT produced the album. I love it!!! I'm also listening to AMY WINEHOUSE. It's nice to see someone with talent making a lot of great music. A beautiful voice!
Just like yours!
In your absence was it solely family matters that kept you away or were you doing other things?
There was a bit of that (raising children). We had also built a house and there were other various little things that amused me but I always kept writing, but I didn't play. The last time I played, it was for my solo record and that was so long ago. Being a mum kept me busy and that was enough.
One more question.
Can I get a BABY ANIMALS T-shirt?
Leave it with me. I'll see what I can do.