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March 26, 2023

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Tex is a funny prick. In an industry full of people who take themselves SO seriously, Perkins is a breath of fresh air.

Sure he’s got the swagger, he’s got the charisma, he’s certainly got the stage presence, but being a rock’n’roll frontman, ‘a stone stud-symbol’ as Iggy Pop tagged him, is part of the act and Perkins walks that fine line between performance and pisstake. It’s brilliant.

His memoir Tex is proper LOL material. I think I even had a ROTFL.

So you know him from The Cruel Seal, The Beasts of Bourbon, Tex, Don & Charlie, Dark Horse, Thug, The Ladyboyz, the Dum Dums, but there’s a whole lot more along the way… like how Gregory Perkins became Tex.

But what Perkins also does in his memoir is more than tell just his story; he tells the story of underground music in Australia from the mid-eighties. Of punk. Of performance art.

Of alternative rockers who just wanted to get onstage and make something happen. Of the time when Sydney was fricking awesome.

In 1985 when the world was singing We are the World, Perkins joined a bunch of his mates and released an EP titled Lorne Greene Shares His Precious Fluids.

Perkins is an arch-collaborator. He’s had more bands than hot dinners. So his story is clearly an important one.

It wasn’t Tex’s idea to write a book. It was rock journalist Stuart Coupe’s.

‘He said he had a publisher ready to go. They were green-lighting the project,’ says Tex, who wasn’t initially effusive about the idea of telling his story.

‘I didn’t think we had the numbers. These rock bios are based on either huge success or huge excess. I have had bit of both but not to any degree that needed to be in a book… but they had a bag of money, and I said okay. I could do that.’

Tex didn’t start out writing the book. It started as a series of interviews with Stuart.

‘I thought he was writing a book about me,’ says Tex.

‘All the time I thought he will go and interview other people about me and write the book… and then he presented me with a first draft; he wrote it from my perspective! I was shocked at how unaware I was but really when I read it I said it doesn’t sound like me; it has to be written from my perspective.’ And so Perkins went about telling his story himself, using his interviews with Coupe as the core of the book.

Like anyone writing a memoir, Perkins found himself falling into reverie, remembering things he thought he’d forgotten.

In fact in the process of reading his memoir I realised that. I was at a gig that he described – a Radiators gig that went a bit nuts in a hotel in Brisbane – I was 13 – it was my first concert. No-one even bothered to check my age. It was wild. I thought all gigs were going to be like that. People just leaping off shit. Perkins laughed, ‘So did I! It set the tone!’

‘There’s a lot of remembering,’ he reflects on the process.

‘On an actual practical physical level I got in contact with a whole lot of people whom I wouldn’t have if I weren’t writing. It was great to do that. To realise that looking back at it all we have been through, ups and downs and fallings out and then realise I love these people. I really still appreciate and feel how I felt about them when I was 18.’

The boy from Brisbane was embraced by a lot of older dudes who took on the big brother role, blokes including Spencer P Jones and Boris Sudjovic. Later on, even Iggy. There are many stories in Tex’s book… all checked thoroughly of course with the lawyer (note that I resisted using the oft-heckled tagline from Cruel Sea song).

‘You can work on a manuscript carefully but it’s the little things that upset people.’

‘Stuart told me that you find out that who gets upset the most are the people who aren’t in the book! If I couldn’t make it funny or I didn’t have an angle, then it didn’t go in.

‘I found that constructing the story on the page opened doors in my mind and I had get to the point. In the construction of the story I was writing jokes; things would naturally write to a punchline, so I would go there rather than tell other information.’

One of the things that stands out most about Perkins’s book, other than it’s a rollicking good read, is how refreshingly unimpressed he is with himself. This is not a book of an author congratulating himself.

He critiques his input on his huge output of albums, like a school teacher going back and writing an assessment where he writes of his 1993 Tex Don & Charlie album, ‘I think I am the weakest link here. I still hadn’t learnt how to sing at this point.’ Wow, and he’s got himself an ARIA. Well in theory. The story about what happened to that ARIA is in the book.

‘I think it’s important to be your own harshest critic,’ says Tex.

‘You don’t want other people to do that.’

Tex Perkins is a featured panelist at the Byron Writers Festival this weekend (Friday–Sunday). For tickets and information about the program go to byronwritersfestival.com.

More Byron Writers Festival 2017 articles:

Tex Talks

Tex is a funny prick. In an industry full of people who take themselves SO seriously, Perkins is a breath of fresh air.


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