Some musicians struggle to make one band happen, but for Tex Perkins, who’s become an icon in the Australian music industry for basically giving the finger to the Australian music industry, every band or musical collaboration seems to find its own very different momentum. Frontman for the surf rock band The Cruel Sea, hardcore Beasts of Bourbon, the almost-country lament of Tex, Don and Charlie, The Dark Horses, dressed in a white suit fronting the tongue-in-cheek Ladyboyz, in black as Johnny Cash, and now, The Ape. According to Tex, The Ape is the ‘most Perko of them all’. The Ape brings Perkins full circle back to unpretentious, unashamed rock.
‘The Ape is what happens when Perko is alone by himself with his electric guitar,’ says Tex, who admits that a lot of the songs on The Ape’s new self-titled debut album ‘have been sitting around for years’.
‘I started recording songs – that I thought would never go anywhere – as a personal writing exercise. Played with these recordings from time to time but they didn’t fit with the Dark Horses and it wasn’t the Cruel Sea or Beasts of Bourbon, so it would go on the pile. The Ape pile. And it became bigger. And it became a steaming pile of Ape songs in the corner and I would look at the pile occasionally and I would say: what am I doing, I should throw you out; and it wasn’t until this year that they made it public. I could drape it in mythology, but I won’t. These songs are the most Perk of all. The others are collaborations.’
Tex has a refreshingly self-deprecatory sense of humour unusual in an industry full of people only too willing to tell you how amazing they are.
Tex’s reason for The Ape’s simple unpretentious rock? ‘It has simplicity because I have limited abilities.’
For someone with a few ARIAs (even accepting their awards was a piss take – as The Cruel Sea accepted a swag of awards the band laughed that they had heard rumours that they were going to clean up at the ARIAs so if people wouldn’t mind packing chairs and emptying ashtrays!) – a 30-year career in the industry and the accolades of a Tex Perkins-loving nation, Perkins is pretty humble. I’m not saying he’s a saint. He’s just not a wanker.
Perkins knew he’d hit the nail on the head for Perko fans when the president of the Tex Perkins fan club approached him after a gig at the Cherry Bar in Melbourne, declaring ‘this is the band I have been waiting for all these years’.
So for those of you like Richie, the pres of the Tex Club who loved The Cruel Sea but wanted something heavy, but not as heavy as the Beasts, and not as country, bluegrass as Tex, Don and Charlie… The Ape is for you.
‘There is a sense of humour running through it without it being a pisstake’ says Tex, ‘The Ape is playful, as apes should be…’
So how does a bloke stay at the top of his game in an industry as fickle as the music industry?
Father of five, Perkins turns 50 next year. He reckons he’s had a sort of revival.
‘I let myself go around 44 or 45 and I got fat and unfit and then I realised I couldn’t afford to be fat and unfit as a father of five – you have to stay with it. It’s not like here is my easy chair I can sit in and get old. I have to chase kids and lift stuff. I had to get fit for getting up stairs, and bending over. I’d get up a staircase and I’d be like ‘give me a minute’. I actually fought for my fitness, and I got it back. It started down at the Federal tennis court with Mitch – my personal trainer. I had tennis lessons. I did footy training and spa-ing. Now I have tennis elbow. I’ll never go near another tennis racket again. It’s footy and boxing from now on.’
Perkins couldn’t do The Ape unless he was ‘rock ready’.
As for the alt country collaborations: ‘a lot of it I could get away with sitting on a stool; it was part of me gently looking into the horizon and going into the sunset on a stool… I realised the need to get fit because there was some rocking to be done.’
The Ape are out of the cave and rocking.
‘I have been called The Ape most of my life; when I was younger it was ‘monkey boy’, so it’s always been a title that I carried and one that I totally embraced.
I have always loved Apes, especially talking apes.’
If you love Tex Perkins, and you love talking Apes, and even singing Apes playing electric guitar and busting out some rock, then join Raul Sanchez (Magic Dirt) on guitar, Gus Agars (The Dark Horses) on drums and vocals, Pat Bourke on bass and piano and the Arsehole, sorry the artist formally known as Tex Perkins, on vocals and guitar… The Ape.
Hotel Great Northern on Sunday.
Find this and many other great gigs in Echonetdaily’s North Coast Gig Guide