The Screaming Jets

Dave Gleeson – The Screaming Jets

Dave Gleeson is well known as the frontman of The Screaming Jets, and has also taken over fronting The Angels since the untimely passing of Doc Neeson. Now in his 50s, the iconic Aussie rocker juggles a busy home life as a father and husband, as well as tending to his mistress of many years – rock’n’roll. When Jade Kennedy caught up with Gleeson, he was tending to a sick child whilst fielding interviews about the Jets’ upcoming Dirty Thirty tour.

So how are you finding the dad/rock n roll balance at the moment?
“Oh it’s good, I mean I’ve just started three weeks off so I’m looking forward to that. But I think touring now as opposed to what it used to be, it’s become a lot easier to juggle the two jobs. I mean I usually go Thursday or Friday and come home Sunday, so I’ve got those four or five days where I’m at home on the ground doing the right thing family-wise and then I get to go away on the weekend and carry on with rock’n’roll shenanigans (laughs).”

I did see some photos from the Symphony of Angels show – that looked fancy!
“Yes, very fancy. They’re amazing those shows. We’ve done three now and the Angels music really does lend itself to those kind of orchestral manoeuvres, more so probably than the Jets, but that would be because John and Rick Brewster have a classical pedigree – their father, grandfather, etc. were members of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and stuff like that. So they came up with it in their genes, whereas I kind of came up with Tom Jones and Nana Mouskouri and Perry Como in my genes (laughs).”

Tell me, how does touring with the Angels differ to touring with the Jets?
“(Laughs) Well, The Screaming Jets are still a Jack Daniels-fuelled rock’n’roll band, we love to get there and have a party and stay up late; hang out with people – because after 30 years of touring around the country you make acquaintances and friendships and stuff like that where sometimes you don’t see each other for a couple of years or 18 months or so, so there’s always a party somewhere, which is a bit of a rod for our own back because people will come up and go, “Oh come on mate, aren’t you coming out?” and you go, “Nah mate, I’ve got another show tomorrow,” so they go, “You’ve changed mate.” (Laughs) Yeah I know – I’m 50 now! (Laughs) Of course the Angels are a bit more staid, and the other difference between the Angels and the Jets is that the Angels have far more cashed-up friends than the Jets do. (Laughs) We’ve got your working class tradie-style fans and the Angels have fans that are doctors and lawyers and all kinds of weird and wonderful professions.”

Obviously the Jets’ Dirty Thirty tour is coming up – are you keen to get back to see your friends in North Queensland?
“Yes indeed! We haven’t been up there for a while, we’ve done a few little hit and runs and one offs here and there, but yeah we love it. There’s something very self-serving about booking a month or three weeks worth of dates through North Queensland right smack bang in the middle of winter! (Laughs) ‘Cause where I live, in the Adelaide Hills, it will be zero degrees and up there it’ll be 30 degrees.”

I did wonder if that was done on purpose.
“(Laughs) Oh, you’ve always gotta be careful when you’re talking to the wife back home and she hasn’t seen sunlight for the last four days, when she’s like, “And how is it up there?” and you go, “Ahhhh, you know, terrible!” (Laughs) while in reality you’re sitting in a swimming pool having a beer. “

Well you are doing quite the run up here this time – obviously Townsville and Cairns but also Mission Beach and Emerald and Bundaberg and such.
“Yeah, well once we got those first few gigs in we kind of decided to make sure we covered as much ground as possible, because once you’re up there you might as well get around, and I know there’s been a lot of places affected by droughts and then floods and all that kind of stuff, so if there’s any kind of joy we can bring up there through our performance and stuff, we’re more than happy to get up there and stay around as long as we can. “

So did you expect when you pulled this little band together in Newcastle in the ‘80s that you’d still be going hard playing shows around the country 30 years later?
“I don’t think… Well, there’s an infamous video that we brought out in about 1995, it was called Insanitary – it was your classic band on the road touring, carrying on type of video – and in it I get asked, “What do you think you’ll be doing in 10 years?” (Laughs) and I said, “I’ll be DEAD in 10 years!” in classic rock style (laughs) but thankfully that didn’t happen. You know, I don’t think you ever set out with the intent that you’re going to be around forever or for a good long amount of time; I mean there’s even classic footage of Mick Jagger getting interviewed in 1965 or something and the interviewer goes (affects posh English accent), “So how long do you thing this can last?” and he goes (affects Mick Jagger voice), “Oh I dunno, maybe another four or five years.” (Laughs) It’s one of those things, you just kind of keep doing what’s put in front of you, and before you know it a lot of time’s gone by. I still feel 24 in many ways, like I was when the Jets had our first big dose of success; that’s probably a bit of arrested development maybe (laughs).”

Is the secret of longevity in a band similar in some ways to the secret of longevity in a marriage?
“Yep – just put one foot in front of the other and make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. We’ve had people come and go, people that have been in the band that were kind of important players, they’re gone now – that’s not to say that they’re dead, just dead to us. But you get to a stage, here we are in 2019, and we’ve got a line up of blokes that get along really, really well; myself and Paul have been there from the start, Jimmy Hocking who’s our guitarist, he came along in about 1993 and stayed ‘til ’98 then re-joined in 2007, so he’s been around a long time. I think the thing is you expect less of everybody else and more of yourself as time goes on, and you kind of let everyone take care of themselves, and for it to work everyone has to have that same type of feeling. Make sure that you do your job and do it well, and rely on your band mates to take care of the same thing and everything kind of takes care of itself. Your ego clashes go out the window, because, well, we’re all 50 and something now (laughs) if you’re walking around with a big ego when you’re 50 you’re bound to get smacked in the chops eventually (laughs).”

I did notice though you guys have a new drummer, don’t you?
“We do, we’ve just parted ways with our drummer at the end of the Red Hot Summer tour, which we just did. It just kind of didn’t work out. A lot of the time what happens is you pick up players on the fly, and drummers in particular, so you don’t have much time to work them in and by necessity you can end up needing to have them around longer than you otherwise would have. Not to put any downer on Mark’s talent, who has just gone recently, but sometimes things just don’t work out. It’s just one of those things; rock’n’roll can be funny like that. So we will have a brand new drummer on this tour!”

Well we’re looking forward to seeing how he goes! So, back in the early days broken bones and blood and other bodily fluids were kind of standard at Jets shows – how did that come about? You know, you go to a Jets show and you could walk out with a broken nose?
“Well look, I guess back in the day there was a lot of moshing, which obviously brought crowds into much more heated contact with each other. There’s no moshing obviously any more, people say, ‘Mosh with courtesy,” I don’t know what that means (laughs) it’s just an oxy-moron. And stage diving – I’d dive into crowds. I think there was a bit more danger when we played, and having said that back in the ‘80s there was just generally more danger from the fact they were constantly cramming too many people into venues that couldn’t hack it. You know, if a venue could hold 800 there was no problem sticking 1600 in there, that’s just what everyone used to do before there was big crackdowns on licensing and stuff like that. So we kind of came along at the end of that ‘golden age’ of Australian music – obviously we never incited violence… Oh… Well… (Laughs) We never incited violence or condoned it; we even stopped shows when there were fights happening and stuff like that. I guess it was just the excitement, the energy and everything was probably a little less regulated than it is now. There was probably fewer bouncers, and you know, bouncers back in the day had less training than they do now. There was definitely less regulation, and with less regulation there was more chance for stuff to escalate.”

You have a point. Obviously this is the ‘dirty thirty’ tour – you must have witnessed and even done some pretty grotty things on tour over 30 years. What’s the worst you can think of?
“(Laughs) Oh look, I remember (laughs) I’m not gonna name names, but I remember people urinating on stage while we were playing because it was one of those rooms where you couldn’t get off stage to go to the toilet, and you’re in the middle of the show… (Laughs) Once again, I’m not saying I condoned it, I’m just saying things happened. (Laughs) But there’s been all sorts of things. I’ve slept in hotel rooms where you turn off the light and suddenly hear skittering across the boards and across the shelves and you turn on the light and there’s 200 cockroaches converging on your bed, you know. On one particular time when that happened I just sat up all night killing cockroaches, then the next morning I pulled the bed sheets back – oh, I did get a bit of sleep, but I slept with a hoodie on, me tracksuit pants tucked into me socks, and gloves – but I killed a heap of cockroaches and in the morning pulled the bed sheers back and put, oh, I dunno, 20 dead cockroaches on the bed and just left them there. I was like, “There ya go, clean that up.” But we’ve seen the best and the worst, you know. The more you tour and find some out of the way places… You know, we’ve been billeted out at people’s houses, much to their loss (laughs) – there’s been places where there’s been no accommodation so we’ve had to stay at people’s houses and stuff like that, so we’ve seen it all!”

I figured out of everyone in the music industry you’ve probably seen the most.
“(Laughs) Well the funny part is, when we’re on tour with the Angels, Sam Brewster – who’s the bass player and son of John Brewster, the guitarist of the Angels – just about every venue we passed, Sam will sarcastically say, “You played there?” and about 85 per cent of the time I say, “Yep!” (Laughs) Yeah, we’ve played ‘em all.”

Oh I have no doubt! I will let you go, but before I do it has been a little while since we saw Chrome – so is there new Jets music on the way?
“Definitely! Yeah, yeah. I mean last year the Gotcha Covered album ended up growing into something bigger than we thought it would, so that was incredibly gratifying that everyone was so into it, and we got to tour pretty extensively for that, which kind of put our designs of doing new stuff on the back burner a little bit. Then we’re putting together a 30-track kind of retrospective to be released in May, so that’s taken a little bit of time. But I’ve been writing a bunch of songs and we’ll be probably demoing the next month or six weeks, just so we’ve got something to work on, then whether we bring out an EP or something this year or wait til next year to bring out a full album remains to be seen. We definitely haven’t stopped; we’ve got at least to get to 10 studio albums. That’s been the plan since the day that we kicked off, that was kind of our watermark – if you don’t do 10 albums you’re not a real band (laughs).”

Jade Kennedy

The Screaming Jets play Brothers Leagues Club on Saturday the 1st of June and Mission Beach Resort on Sunday the 2nd of June 2019

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