Words Dave Mullins.
There are very few punk bands that have had the kind of success that Pennywise has had. They are one of the most successful independent punk bands of all time, with over 3 million records sold worldwide. Their 1995 album, About Time, launched them into the hearts and minds of an entire generation and the album went gold in Australia. Pennywise decided to mark the 20th anniversary of the album with a tour of Australia which starts in late September. Dave Mullins had a chat with bassist Randy Bradbury about the album, the tour and what it’s like to tour with some of the best punk bands in the world.
Dave Mullins: So it’s the 20th Anniversary of About Time, the album has obviously been hugely important to fans of the band, and punk music in general. What are your thoughts on the legacy that Pennywise has?
Randy Bradbury: It’s pretty amazing actually, I started with the band regularly for the tour of About Time. The first album was released in about 1991, and in ’95 they were releasing the 3rd album, so that right there was some longevity. So I kind of figured at that time we probably had about two or three more years left. The fact that it’s twenty years later is pretty amazing, we couldn’t have foreseen that at the time.
Dave: It’s got to be pretty surreal getting up on stage and playing those songs twenty years later and everyone’s still loving every second of it.
Randy: Some of the best songs are on that album and they’re favourites of our set. Like Same Old Story and Every Single Day… Perfect People. So there’s a lot of good songs on that album. And I can say that because I wasn’t in that band when it was written, so I can say that from an outside perspective.
Dave: What do fans have to look forward to during the tour, will you be playing About Time in full?
Randy: That’s the plan, and if I have my say on it we’ll be playing it in the same order, first song to last song, I think that’d be cool. So yeah, you never know. It’s like a war, there’s a plan until first contact. But that’s the plan, we’ll play the whole album and then who knows from there?
Dave: And I guess you’ve got a few dates to see what works and what the fans are enjoying.
Randy: Yeah, I’m really excited to play the album from start to finish, like I said some, of those songs… they’ve definitely stood the test of time, so I don’t think we could do any wrong by playing that album from start to finish.
Dave: Back in 2013 you guys covered Devonshire and Crown on the Tony Sly tribute album (The Songs Of Tony Sly), did you guys pick that song, or was that something Fat Mike threw at you?
Randy: Actually, that was kind of Fat Mike’s idea. He put together the whole tribute to Tony Sly, and he thought that’d be a good song for us to do. It’s a little bit of a different feel for us, especially the original version, but it’s such a good song it doesn’t matter. It’s got that ba ba mm ba ba, that type of beat, and we don’t normally do that but Tony was such a good song writer and lyricist so when we found out that was the suggested song we were really stoked and we could Pennywise it up a little bit. And we were really happy with the way that turned out.
Dave: Yeah man, it’s really great. It’s one of those songs that I would never have thought would work out so well (as a punk song) but you really captured it. It’s about a pub in Sydney, did you know that?
Randy: Oh, is that where it is? I was always trying to figure out where that was and I figured Devonshire and Crown was somewhere in England or Ireland, but that’s in Sydney huh?
Dave: Yeah, you should look it up while you’re there and go for a beer, it’s not that far from where you’re playing. [http://www.trinitybar.com.au/]
Randy: Anything that has to do with a pub I’d be happy to spend some time checking it out. I do my fair share of drinking in Australia.
Dave: Well yeah, it is our national past-time. Anyway, speaking of covers, last year, The Offspring covered No Reason Why, on their Summer Nationals EP, what did you think of it?
Randy: I thought it was amazing. I thought it was much better than how us covering one of their songs would have turned out. After hearing that I’m really glad we decided not to cover one of their songs, I don’t know why but we just couldn’t do it. But yeah, I was really impressed with their version.
Dave: The Summer Nats tour must be pretty fun, touring with so many amazing bands, The Offspring, Bad Relgion… the Vandals I think… it must be great spending a lot of time with all of these seminal acts that you’ve also got a lot of history with.
Randy: Oh yeah, that’s the best. We’ve been friends with the guys in those bands for years and we’re also fans of the music. This goes all the way back to decades ago, just being fans of good bands and loving their songs and their style of music. And that’s the thing, these guys are our friends and we still like their music. Some bands, you get to know people and it kind of wrecks it for you. But not with any of those bands. That was one of the funnest tours that we’ve done.
Dave: You’re touring with Anti-Flag, which is awesome, you guys all have a history of taking on serious issues in your music, does that equate to a lot of serious discussion on the tour bus, so to speak?
Randy: A lot of times when you’re writing songs… like… I’m presenting it for the whole world to see, what do I want to talk about? What’s important in my life, what do I think would be something that resonates? So when you’re writing songs you want it to be important, you don’t want to waste your time talking about chicks and bikinis or something like that, even though that’s pretty cool in itself. But when we’re out on tour, and we’re hanging out, there’s a lot of like-minded thinking, so for the most part it would be like having a one-way conversation. When we’re on the road we’re having fun, there’s not a lot of seriousness. And a lot of it is just relating to each other and just being friends and all that. We don’t really have a lot of political discussions and things like that on the road. Because it’s a one-way conversation, and if it’s not, it’s an argument. So [laughs] there’s no reason to go there.
But we’ve become friends with the guys in Anti-Flag over the years and they’re really cool guys. They’re amazing live, they’re just a great band and they write great songs. I just think they’re incredible. It’s really fun to tour with them, they put on a great show and really get the crowd going. They’re one of the better bands that we’ve ever been on the road with. It’s just exciting and fun to be involved in that scene, in what’s going on. It’s a lot of good.
Dave: And that’s really good to know that you’re still having fun. That after being a band for such a long period of time you can still go out on tour and love what you’re doing.
Randy: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. We’re still getting the messages out there that we think are important, we’re still doing what we love and playing music but it’s like we don’t sit around on the bus and talk shop, we’re not talking like “oh hey what kind of strings do you use”. We’re so saturated in our music and the things we do so it’s kind of fun to just purge and just enjoy yourself for a little bit. But then you get on stage and then it’s time to play your songs and sing your lyrics and do all of that stuff.
Dave: So has there been any band or bands you’ve been really enjoying lately?
Randy: See I always have a thing where there’s so many new bands, there’s an over-abundance of music, so it’s really hard to check out new stuff all the time. So I’m always going back to the old standards that I know are good. I love the tunes of Bad Religion and I like listening to Turbonegro. They’re kind of new to me, I just got into them probably like three or four years ago. There’s another band, I played bass on their EP, they’re called Runaway Kids, they’re a new band that I really, really like a lot, regardless of that I played bass on their EP or not. I just stick to what I know, so I’m not hearing a lot of new stuff.
Dave: That’s fair. Back to talking shop, what kind of bass rig are you playing at the moment?
Randy: I play a Fender Precision, the one that I have now, they’re called Highway Ones, they’re basically American made, really heavy, sturdy, strong bass. I play through an Ampeg SVT head and SVT cabinet. And I run a Sansamp in there also. I tried a lot of basses over the years but I could never totally be happy. Then I realised all of the bands that I listened to, all of the bass players that I thought were amazing were all basically playing a Fender Precisions through an SVT. I had used that combination before, but I thought that if I take this and I can’t make this sound the way that I want it to, then it’s my problem, not the equipment’s problem. So since I’ve dedicated myself to playing a Fender Precision through an SVT I’ve been super happy, I just love that sound. I like throwing a Sansamp in there too, it just that little bit more control, a little bit more growl. I can carve out little bit more EQ and expression, that’s what I like.
Dave: I’m a huge fan of the Fender P myself, so that’s good. Do you have any tips out there for the aspiring punk bass players of the world?
Randy: Well, if you’re really an aspiring bass player or musician of any instrument, I’d say first of all, what are you goals? You gotta ask yourself what do you want to do with this. You’re not going to get anything out of it unless you love it. I feel in love with playing bass, like, you couldn’t stop me. So I would say, if you love it, that’s the first thing. If you don’t then whatever, mess around and have some fun with it. But if you’re an aspiring bass player and you love it, then I say practice, practice, practice. Always play, always pick it up, always play and make things up. Make songs up, make up bass, make everything up. And then next thing to do, is to take people who make music you like, and how you want to express yourself musically and learn their songs and learn their bass lines. Because that gives you confidence. You can go “wow I can play Paul Gray from the Damned’s basslines” or “I can play Flea’s basslines”, or whatever. Then you go “wow, I could be pretty good” and once you get confident then you can really branch out. But it just takes hours and hours and hours of playing. I mean that’s what worked for me. I logged in so many hours playing the bass… I wish had a penny for every hour, I’d have a lot of money [laughs]
Dave: That’s great advice. One last question, this one is a little weird. Back in 2006 you played at the Roundhouse in Sydney and my friends and I threw some mountain bike movie DVDs on stage, at you. We were wondering if you ever got to see them [laughing]?
Randy: They were mountain biking movies?
Dave: Yeah, my friends and I filmed the movie back in 2005 and we thought “Hey Pennywise would really like this” and we thought that a great way to get it out to you was to throw it at you while you were on stage.
Randy: Yeah I like that, and we do get CDs and stuff on stage. But there’s a couple of things that probably happened. As I said, Australia’s always a blur, it’s a drunken blur, so if I did watch it I might not remember it. But, ah, there’s so much stuff thrown on stage, and I lose my own shirt. I remember that show Fletcher poured fucking Coca-Cola down my pants, so I didn’t even come back with my underwear, I took my underwear off and threw it in the bathroom. So I doubt we ever saw those mountain biking videos. I’m sorry [laughs].
Dave: It probably wasn’t the most well thought out plan in the first place. [everyone laughs]