CLASSIC UB INTERVIEW: LOBBY LOYDE
BY JULIAN CULPAN
Originally published in Unbelievably Bad #5, 2007
The influence of Lobby Lloyd (real name: Barry Lyde) on Australian guitar-driven music is undeniable; as undeniable as the single-cell lung cancer that he reckons will take him in the next few months. This is a man that in the last forty years has forged a titan’s path based on dirty, driving, overdriven blues-rock.
He has been name-checked by an envious array of modern musical heroes; Kurt Cobain, Slash, Henry Rollins and Angus Young. As a producer and guitarist he has helped forge the sound, and influence the careers of X, The Sunnyboys, Painters and Dockers, Intoxica, Billy Thorpe, You Am I, Depression, Rose Tattoo, Cosmic Psychos, Machinations and many more. He is also distantly related to Oscar Wilde.
When I meet Lobby he has just managed to move a chemotherapy appointment to the day after his benefit gig at The Palace in St Kilda. We celebrate by having a smoke outside and he tells me that he’d never be able to play the benefit if he had the chemo beforehand.
“I’m over it, I don’t give a fuck. I’m dead. I’m not gonna be a dribbler, I’m gonna hit the wall. Bang.”
Australia’s original punk had decided it would be his last dose of chemotherapy.
I had prepared myself for meeting Lobby with 36 hours of high volume repeated listenings of Ball Power, trying to imagine what if that album, or indeed Loyd himself, had never existed. I’d argue that we wouldn’t have the same hard rock pedigree that sees Australia placed so near the stinking, vile and passionate heart of dirty rock ’n’ roll.
I had also made some calls to different people who knew Lobby, played with him or just religiously went to see him play in the seventies. The feeling was unanimous: gentleman, scholar, dreamer, catalyst.
So, with a half hour to talk, half a pack of Champion Ruby and four papers left, Lobby and I sit down to chat…
You are universally regarded as a gentleman…
Well that’s bloody nice.
It’s been mentioned to me that you were like everybody’s older brother.
Well that’s nice… the young guys call me a father figure, y’see I take ’em into a studio and show ’em all the stuff and they say, “God your patient,” and I say, “Well I’m not actually, I’m a really impatient bastard.” They say stuff like, “You’re the father I wish I had,” which is an incredible compliment from some crazy, rat-chewed-hair rock ’n’ roll musician. They say I’m a gentlemen, it’s probably because I have patience. I sit with ’em in a studio and I don’t care how long it takes. I’m not gonna say shit to ’em, because everyone breaks their balls. It’s like fishing for trout, you gotta lure ’em in, you can’t give up, you gotta keep swinging that lure over their heads. You can’t get angry, you gotta extract the performance. But some guys like Michael Fine, I call him every name under the sun and I abuse the living shit outta him and unless I do that, I’m never gonna get the performance outta him.
I guess it’s knowing who you can do that to…
Yeah half these guys, they’re sooo bloody sensitive that if you call ’em fuckhead, you’ve just lost ’em for an hour. If you say, “What the Christ are you doing there, man, you coulda played that better with your willy,” well then they’re not gonna talk to you for weeks, so what’s the point?
So you are talking about your times as a producer, who are some of the people you’ve worked with?
Brian Hooper, Tim Rogers, Machinations, Sunnyboys… The Sunnys, they were an extreme case because on one hand Jeremy [Oxley]’s bipolar and he’s starting to have a meltdown. He talks complete gibberish and it slowly got worse. When I first started out it was hard to tell that’s what it was. He was so gifted lyrically and he played this beautiful singing guitar. Mate, I gave him my TB Gibson, which was one of about 55 and I’m never gonna see another one in my life (roadies ended up dropping an amp head on it a killed it). When he picked it up and played it, it sang, it talked to him, it was like an extension. Why was I gonna be bothered playing it again ’cos when this guy played it he went to a magic dimension? He played it on that first Sunnyboys record. He just knocked me over that guy because he was so sensitive and whatever it was, fluid in his guitar playing, and his lyrics were intense. They were all deep within the psyche; they were all trying to express love. Like “Tunnel Of Love”; it might sound like an average vaginal love song but it wasn’t, it was intense, it was really birthy and all that.
So the Sunnyboys would have been one of your first as producer? About ’81 yeah?
Yep. I’d been doing stuff in England but that was kinda different.
What was going on over there?
I recorded a bit of stuff over there, it was very different. The English didn’t require the same sort of coaxing as Aussies required. The English wake up thinking, “Hey, we’re good!” And the Aussies don’t. They think, “Oh we might be all right.” There was a big inferiority complex here.
How long did you spend in England?
Oh, from the end of ’75 ’til ’79, it was very enjoyable. I did lots of live sound, studio work, played live a lot, I just had a lot of fun, I was there for the pleasure of it. And I learnt a lot. I learnt a lot about studios. I learnt about the difference between our studios and those over there. Here they’d say, “What do you want to do that for?” Over there they’d go, “Fantastic lets try that! What colour do you want it? Do you want it with strawberries and bananas?” Whereas the Australian would go, “Why would you do what Stevie Wonder does, what would you do that for?” We’ve always had this inferiority complex that everyone else is better, but the English, they go with your idea ’cos they already believe they’re right, so you might be right too!
When I was talking with (Masters Apprentices singer) Jim Keays prior to this we talked about what it was like in Australia starting out in the late sixties and making a go of it and trying not to be a carbon copy of what was happening in the UK or America…
They (the Master Apprentices) invented heavy metal if you don’t mind thank you very much!
Totally! But you had all these dinosaur rock bands coming through at that time…
Oh fuck yeah.
And a few of these guys, and especially you and a lot of the stuff you were involved in, was…
Yeah, it seems you created something that was more outsider, less concerned with making it. What Jim was saying, and I wondered what you reckoned about this, was that when you were playing then you had to try a bit harder to win over a pub full of pissed yobs, who a year before would been trying to punch you out ‘cos you looked weird
Fuck yeah, if you didn’t walk on water you were fucked. I mean, turning fish into a feed wasn’t even good enough. I remember (Masters Apprentices guitarist) Doug Ford. As a guitarist this guy came from the Missing Links to Running Jumping Standing Still to The Masters. Well, single-handedly that prick invented heavy metal!
Yeah, “Future of our Nation” to this day still puts shivers down my spine.
Shit yeah. When you take what Doug was and added it to what Keasy and the other boys had you had genuine fair dinkum pre-Purple, pre-Black Sabbath metal in Australia that had more grunt more edge and more attitude and more angst than any of them. If you listen to Purple (Lob starts humming “Black Knight”) and if you know music it’s actually Porgy and Bess “Summertime and the Living is Easy” (re-hums the riff and it’s the same). So they were actually a cover band pinching riffs from Porgy and Bess! And called it “Black Knight”!
You came out playing guitar that was screaming, but then on the Coloured Balls’ “G.O.D (Guitars On Overdrive)” you had a sound that hadn’t been heard in Australia, maybe anywhere (apart from Hendrix).
“G.O.D” happened at the first Sunbury. What happened was, we were all off our heads, no one could sleep, so I said, “Fuck it we might as well be playing.” So it was 3am and I told (sound engineer) Frenchy to turn everything on and he goes, “We might as well record it.” So thank Christ he was thinking straight. So we turned everything on and went for it. Songs were going for twenty minutes, we woke everyone up, the dawn happened when we were playing all this feedback, it was fantastic. As the dawn cracked on the hill all our feedback was going crazy, it was almost tribal man, I really felt I was almost levitating! I looked out and it was almost like the three shepherds scene, I was waiting for the sky to split open; it was awesome!
I’ve spoken to people who were there, y’know thirty-something years later they still don’t quite know what they heard that night. They’re like, “What the fuck is this sound?” It was the first time they’d heard anyone play like that.
It was crazy, man, it just evolved. Prior to that with Wild Cherries it was just the riffs y’know, but that night, it just came alive, bigger than Ben Hur. But just watching that crack of dawn I was virtually overcome. I said to myself, “Holy fuck talk about perfect timing, how the hell could you be playing on this thing and then the sky starts to blink at you?” It was just… (sighs)
One of those moments where you think for a minute life has pushed you towards this point without you knowing it.
Yeah yeah! Everything you’ve done you’re whole life has brought me to here at 4am. It was very late, it was pointless sleeping, there was a lot of LSD around at the time as you might be aware and people out there were very stoned. The show wasn’t supposed to start til the next day, well the audience was all primed, someone had to get up and go for it, ‘cos everyone needed to hear something! And in the end we went out and did it and the rest, as they say, is history. When Frenchy was mixing it, he rang me up and went, “I’ve just been listening to that Sunbury recording, I want you to come down here and listen to it. I want you to come and sit in the chair and listen and tell me if you feel like you are falling.” So I get outta bed (he rang me at 4am and I’d only just got to bed), I go over to Frenchy’s, he says, “Sit in the chair and I’m going to turn all the lights off and turn up the volume full and tell me when you feel like you’re falling.” And there’s this bit where the guitars do some strange shit, harmonised pitch bend or tremolo or something where the pitch just goes down and down and down and I had my arms out and feet off the floor in pitch darkness listening to this wall of feedback at 1000 watts. Of course I’m fuckin’ falling! When the feedback hits at the end it feels like you are falling through space, it’s just insane. It was awesome man. He said, “Let’s not touch it, let’s just put this on the record as it is!” And that as the master, so the record company wanted to cut all the shit off the end and do a fade out, but Frenchy went, “Fuck that, that’s the master, that’s what they are getting!” It was that thousand-foot drop as we called it. It was like dinosaurs fighting in a quarry, it was tar pit shit!
I can’t think of anyone, apart from maybe Doug Ford, who got such a violent sound out of their guitar as you.
Yeah, well thing is we were just being colourful, Doug was a very colourful player I thought. Of all the players in this country he is the least recognised; he was the first of the killers. Y’know, they inducted me into the Hall of Fame, probably ’cos I’m dropping dead, but while the Masters have been inducted, he himself, personally, has never been inducted. Man, Running Jumping Standing Still were awesome, and he was up there in Sydney withy all those crazy freaks at Suzie Wongs putting tape loops backward and doing all sorts of crazy shit for the first Missing Links single. The other guitarist from the Missing Links [John Jones] went to America and wrote Amityville Horror ! So I mean, these two guys were sick fucks! The two most progressive guitarists in Australia, one goes to Melbourne and starts Australia most progressive band (The Masters Apprentices) and the other goes to Hollywood and makes horror movies, what can you say?
Well, I’ve got to say you are living up to your reputation. Someone said, “Just get Lob talking and the stories will just fall outta him!
Yeah, I’m the storyteller of the gang, I’m like an ink blotter I just soak it all up. I love it, all that stuff is so exciting, I love rock ’n’ roll mate, and I lived the myth and loved it.
It’s exciting for young ’uns like me to talk with you because it’s a crappy cliché but you were there at the dawn of where we got loud.
What does anyone remember of rock ’n’ roll? It almost went to a bad place where no one gave a fuck. In came all the samplers and the stealers rapping about chicks’ bums and guys making loops and dance music that you wouldn’t have a crap on. OK, there were some good bands though. But I’m just doing my part to keep it all remembered. When I die, whose going to repeat the stories? There’s a bunch of guys out there with good memories for this shit, you should talk to Doug Ford sometime man, he knows. You know he lives on the street now?
He’s a very intense, interesting man. Best jazz player live ever heard in my life. The guy from Godwin Guitars gave him a guitar for free ’cos he walked into a music shop, the owner mistakenly thought he was his demo guy and passed him a guitar and said, “Play this for this customer.” He wailed out some insane jazz shit and the guy said, “Nice work Brian,” and he went, “I’m not Brian, I’m Doug. You just gave me a guitar and told me to play,” and the owner went, “Keep the guitar, you’re fantastic!” Doug was just in there looking at guitars!
What guitars and amps did you play?
My favourite guitar is the Jaguar.
The one with BB king on it?
Yep, these two arseholes got us big time. We went to a party opposite the Botanical Gardens. Got there, locked the van, it was awful dark, go inside, go up to the fifth floor to where we were told this party was. Knock on the door and this little old lady says, “Hello?” We were like, “Fuck! The gear!”
You had ALL your gear in the truck in a dark alley?
Umm yep! All gone, they had jemmied it open. My Les Paul, one of only five in Australia, my Jag, and my mate’s ’54 Telecaster bass. They left the Strats ’cos who wants them; they just took the good stuff. Pricks! Kill ’em! Nah, it was a long time ago, back in Wild Cherries days.
It still breaks the golden rule, you don’t steal someone’s tools!
Yeah, it’s crass. It’s like stealing a blind man’s cane and killing his dog, but what the hell.
I got to ask you about one of my favourite songs that’s come out of your fingers, “Human Being”.
“Human Being,” great song.
When did you write that?
Hmmmm Aztecs. That’s why I stopped playing with the Aztecs. Once we wrote “Liberate Rock” as a joke for the Aztecs I was writing all that stuff and I knew I needed to form a band to play that heavy riffing shit, that riff stuck in my mind.
For me it was a transition between that song with its simple heavy blues riff that to me sums up everything a heavy riff could be and Chains’ “Black and Blue”.
Oh yeah, ripper song. That came from their genuine love of black chain gang music, they really knew their shit did Chain. Matt [Taylor – vocals] and Phil [Manning, guitar] and I have been mates for a long time. I used to get wire recordings sent over from the States, we had this one from a Georgian prison gang (at this point Lobby goes off on a very passable Negro lament complete with rocks breaking and chains shuffling). “Oh mama I’m gonna get down!” When you hear that, you don’t need much convincing. And writing “Black and Blue” is the next step really. They went home and wrote a really good prison song and they had the rhythm perfect and everything came from them genuinely understanding the blues that went into those original chain gang dirges.
It gives me shivers, that live version off Toward The Blues is spine tinglingly spooky! Real Australian blues.
Yeah, it’s awesome shit. I’ve never heard music from anywhere in the world have so many profoundly different influences as here in Australia. Doug Ford, Phil Manning massively broad set of influences. “Black and Blue” is the only song that straddles a prison song, blues song, rock song and anthem. People used to sing every word! It was awesome to hear a crowd sing along to it.
What were you listening to? What was blowing your mind?
Listening to myself. I’ve always been obsessed by my guitar. I’d go home and I’d have terrible relationships ’cos I’d be sitting there trying to watch TV or something and my fingers would be tapping and I’d be looking over at my guitar case, y’know, have twenty cigarettes, ten cups of coffee then go bam! Pull out the guitar and then play after everyone went to bed, play for hours. Til the sun came up and I’d go, “Fuck I’d better go to bed, I gotta drive the kids to school in an hour!” That was my biggest problem in life; it would have been better not to have had those twenty smokes and ten coffees and just pick the guitar up and gone for it as soon as I got home.
So you recently did a Purple Hearts show in Brizzo how was it?
It was good but I burnt myself out, came back and got crook again. I worked myself up about the gigs. All these people were looking sad, looking at me like, “Oh you poor cunt, you’ve got cancer,” and I was, “Jesus Christ, fuck off!!” I could do without the bullshit. Can I induce you pricks to throw rocks at me or something? Can we get angry? Not all sighing and shit.
Everyone I’ve spoken to who knows you couldn’t stop taking about how much you meant to them, I couldn’t get off the phone.
It’s great to have so many good friends, but geez it gets a bit tedious, too.
When do you find time to play the guitar anymore…
When do you find time to tell your friends to get fucked anymore?
You know they’re your friends when you can tell ’em…
To get fucked!