Down To the Bone
Bad Reputation Records
“When we do a live show or a recording there are four songs I try and warm up to: Chris Cornell’s ‘When I'm Down,’ Deep Purple’s ‘Sail Away,’ Free’s ‘Ride on Pony’ and ‘The Stealer’.” Electric Mary’s vocalist Rusty Brown ~ the Bear
We stumbled across Electric Mary by way of a CD sampler sent out with the September edition of UK magazine Classic Rock. The disc is intended to promote current bands that still believe in the true spirit of rock ‘n roll; they play it with gusto and inspire even the most cynical. Among those featured were these Aussie lads who waste no time in broadcasting their conviction with a smart, sassy tune that teeters on the power lines between AC/DC and Bad Company. “Let Me Out” is lifted from their current disc Down To the Bone and comes with a chest thumping kick drum, a Slash-like riff and a hair-raising vocal that dwarfs even established mainstays of the genre. The band’s been singing in the devil’s choir with their own brand of retro rock since their 2004 debut Four Hands High, but seems to have struck gold after their summer slot opening for Whitesnake and Judas Priest down under. Suddenly the five-year old band are the talk of the town and making international press.
We reached out to lead singer Rusty Brown on the eve of their tour with midland’s own Judas Priest for a brief history lesson. It seems the whole thing started with a sightseeing tour of Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studio in New York City. “I decided to go back to what made me first want to play music,” says Brown. “To do that I needed to go where it all began. Me and Irwin Thomas (our guitarist) made the quest. We met up with studio manager Mary Campbell who gave us the look about. So much history in such a little space. When we left she gave us her email; electricmary@...” Brown and Irwin had been mainstays on the Melbourne circuit but after their run in with Mary everything changed. “I decided to make music that made me happy and hope that the rest would follow,” continues Brown. “After rounding up the troops that I wanted to help create the music, Electric Mary was born.”
With the new name came a more focused direction. “I wanted to find more of the sound that I had grown up with,” says Brown. “I didn't want to play the ‘let’s write a single, let’s do a video’ game anymore. I just wanted a band that I could step on stage with and get instant gratification. I didn't want to wait around to see if someone was going to approve of me. A great friend of ours had a studio that burnt down and he got some bad burns so I put a band together and we played a show to raise some money. There was my instant gratification. The trouble started the day after the gig when a new label offered us a deal. I took it… and the devil had his way. We released Four Hands High, which was ok for a start but not the home run I had envisioned. When I listen to it now I hear moments of, ‘yes we nailed that,’ and sadly moments where I think, ‘hmmm maybe we should have looked at that a little longer. We also had a few different players come in and out on that record.”
After Four Hands High the band parted ways with the record company. “Through no fault of theirs,” says Brown. “It just didn't happen. By the time we were ready to do the Definition of Insanity (2006) EP I had a clear vision of what was going on and we had all the right ingredients. It was all about us doing what we wanted, the way we wanted to do it. The rules of the day had been thrown out, because rock’n’roll is not about rules.” The D.O.I. EP was released as a hard copy in Australia and posted on iTunes for the rest of the world. “In truth, before the Whitesnake and Judas Priest tour we never played outside of our own state of Victoria,” says Brown. “We were building a kind of Noah's Ark for people that wanted to get back to rock’n’roll the way it used to taste. 18-year olds love it because they haven't seen it in the flesh before, Purple, Zeppelin, Rainbow, they only see what’s on DVD - and that ain't the same as sweating it out with another 400 humans in a small club. 40-year olds love it because they know that feeling…they've smelt it before and they know the taste. It's a ‘built it and they will come’ attitude at the moment.”
The band has been compared to an unholy consummation between “Guns and Roses and Free” which Brown find entertaining. “You'd be surprised how many people say how much we remind them of Guns and Roses or Aerosmith,” says Brown. “I seriously don't own a Guns and Roses album. I only know what I've heard on the radio. Now Free is one of those bands that are always in my top three. When people ask me what’s my favorite Free song I stumble to come across one - how do you choose, it's like which is your favorite child?” He goes on to say, “I love being the teacher. I often get on my high horse about how good Deep Purple, Free, Rainbow or whoever are/were. It was a different time I understand that, but this universe is too busy getting rid of its history, and frankly when it comes to music I'm happy to live in the past.” And with that hinge on the past Electric Mary’s new disc Down To The Bone is a nod to the their own history.
So as not to confuse people, Down To the Bone is a compilation of sorts released through Bad Reputation records in France. It hosts the band’s latest EP (only released in Australia) Definition of Insanity including the songs “No One Does It Better than Me,” “Let Me Out,” “One In A Million,” “Luv Me” and “One Foot In The Grave.” In addition there are four new songs, two songs from a previous release, re-sung, remixed with spruced-up guitars. Says Brown, “It's basically eleven songs from our live set.” The band now sits on a solid foundation with bassist Neilo, drummer Venom, guitarists Irwin Thomas and Pete Robinson with Rusty at the mic. “We try and write hook-filled songs that are modern yet sound like they’ve been around forever,” says Brown. “When I write I use an old tape deck with me humming a riff or playing very bad guitar. The basics of the songs are there when I take them to the band, then we smack them into shape with each member putting their individual stamp on them. The lyrics usually come last but reflect what we’ve been through over the years.”
Electric Mary’s sound is unique and refreshing, not over produced or stale. They’ve used the same sound guy for years, Ricki Rae, who does both their live sound and recording. “He knows how we sound live and he gets results in the studio,” proudly affirms Brown. “We also record the old way, we all play together in the same room, until we feel like we’ve got a great take.” Guitarists Thomas and Robinson are both influenced by your rock gods of the guitar like Van Halen and Steve Vai. “They both jam on things I’ve never heard of and probably should know,” says Brown. “Irwin’s great love is Hendrix so there was a tear shed when we stepped into Electric Lady Studios. The band gels on the combination of what each brings to it. Being the father figure of the band, it's about the amount of nights I have stood in pubs listening to band after band - good, bad or indifferent - taking it all in. Living in Melbourne, we’re a long way from the rest of the universe but we still feel we can rock with the best of ‘em.”
Website: Electric Mary, Bad Reputation Records