ANGRY Anderson is intently thumbing through an English heavy metal magazine. It’s the one which described him, following the release of soppy 1988 Neighbours hit ballad “Suddenly“, as “mildly annoyed Anderson”.
His suspicious eyes stop at a centrefold depicting Guns N’ Roses’ Slash, who is shirtless and has a smoke drooping decadently from an otherwise curl- shrouded face.
“These guys are hysterical,” Anderson says. “They are such weenies!
“I mean in real life, when you go over there and meet them,” he adds, looking up. “I’m not putting shit on them, they’re nice blokes. But when you are 40-plus-years-old,
everyone is a kid. They’re trying so desperately hard to be bad — and I’ve been bad all my life trying so desperately hard to be good!
“Anyway, that’s life. All the goodies want to be baddies, and all the baddies want to be goodies.”
Angry shrugs his rounded shoulders and quickly dismisses the topic, for now. He speaks with a coarseness that would make Mike Tyson wince, and is wearing a black T-shirt with the words Life’s Tough, So What! screaming across his chest in rude seven- inch tall letters. There’s a bandana around his compact neck, earrings in his ears, a broken tooth in his mouth, and not a follicle of hair in sight on his head.
We’re sitting in a cubbyhouse turned interview room at Mushroom Records’ Sydney headquarters. The overhead lights have been turned off because they are too hot, but Anderson’s words almost visibly hang in the air.
The pocket battleship who once fronted all- time Oz rock heroes Rose Tattoo is stern and unflinching in manner.
With a new single, “Bound For Glory”, on release, and solo comeback LP Blood From Stone at the starting blocks, he may well be on the verge of achieving the commercial success Rose Tattoo deserved, but never really gained. His return, with Tatts axeman Rob Riley in his new band, comes in the most spectacular fashion imaginable — on the Pump tour supporting Aerosmith, a band Rose Tattoo toured the US with in 1982. And we all thought Anderson and Riley weren’t on speaking terms…
“It was just one of those cute little lies some of us people in rock ‘n’ roll make up to entertain journalists and the public,” he comments coldly. “There was never any serious rift between me and Robin.”
Angry has often stated his distrust for music journalists. He is initially apprehensive, but eventually lurches forward in his seat and sends our interview sailing past the hour mark. It is early on when he confirms rumours that his deal with US giant Atlantic Records, for whom Blood From Stone was recorded with the American market in mind, is over. However several rival labels have weighed in with substantial offers, and Angry bluntly admits he’ll go to the highest bidder.
“I went as far as I was willing to go with Atlantic,” he says.
“They (Atlantic) were keen to be involved, but what is happening with them signing their acts is that there’s very little rock ‘n’ roll (involved). I mean, look at their most recent ‘bad boys’ signings — Skid Row???
“Sebastian Bach of Skid Row thinks he’s a bad boy, but it’s not a way of life to them, it’s a business. Can you honestly tell me that Sebastian Bach doesn’t represent a middle- class American kid to working class, poverty- stricken Americans?
“When you join a band and get yourself tattooed ‘Youth Gone Wild’, who are you trying to convince? In America, I didn’t see anyone outside of the rock industry who looked like the guys in those bands.”
Angry Anderson was — for real — the rock ‘n’ roll bad boy to end all bad boys. During a decade spent fronting the Tatts, the reputation he forged was so savage I won’t degrade it by using the clichés used to promote Guns N’ Roses, the Row and dozens of others.
He and his cohorts used to head butt the amps until their heads were split open on stage. Angry also used to boast how he drilled his own teeth.
Maybe the latter boast was just a rock’n’roll fib, but there’s no denying Rose Tattoo’s influence on the likes of Guns N’ Roses, L.A. Guns, and any number of other stylized Hollywood cowboy booted corporate rebels. But it is on TV, and as a commentator on a wide range of issues facing Australian society, that Anderson has made his name in recent years.
Just as the music industry didn’t know how to take the colourfully-decorated rock n’ roll outlaw, sections of the Australian community have recoiled at Angry’s controversial views on immigration, and his friendship with arch-conservative Victorian RSL boss Bruce Ruxton.
“I am a racist, as is everybody,” he says with a voice which resembles the sound of titanium being shined with gravel. “The people who pretend they’re not are liars.
“The people who aspire to be less racist, less violent in their racism or more tolerant, they are the triers. They are the people who want better and strive for it. I am one of those.”
The thick veins in Anderson’s neck are much more noticeable, and his voice is raised. He says the U.S. looks after its own first, and we should do the same.
“If you’re going to compassionately welcome refugees from another country, even though you can’t even economically support your own population… if you’re going to extend your compassion to an extent where it’s eventually detrimental to your own welfare… I can’t see where that’s smart thinking!
“I mean, I’m a sympathetic person, and I’m a compassionate person, but I’m not an imbecile! I think we should take care of our own, first and foremost.”
Anderson doesn’t stop. He’s almost more used to expressing his anger through sharpened, barbed oratory these days than through music, although a phone call from L.A. super-producer Beau Hill (Ratt, Winger) not so long ago changed that balance. Hill wanted Rose Tattoo to reform to make an album with him. Angry refused. “So he said, ‘Will you do an album?’. I said ‘Yes.”
Soon Angry was in L.A., writing material with an English guitarist by the name of Michael Slamer, who also ended up producing Blood From Stone.. The result is a slab of plastic that just glistens with contradictions. Blood From Stone features slick — some would say even generic — production, defiantly untamed lyrics, but with some heavy social comment lurking not too far below the surface.
“He (Slamer) was able to create what the executive producer wanted, which was a palatable, white rock album acceptable for a middle-class, white American market,” Anderson admits frankly.
People don’t exactly identify the words ‘marketing’ and ‘palatable’ with Angry Anderson though, do they?
“No, but is it fair that other people can tell me what I am?”
But isn’t it a rather convenient time to record another album? A lot of people might say you’re cashing in on the success of bands who you’ve inspired…
“As far as the guys from the Gunners go, when it comes to standing in a bar with six or eight straight tequilas in ‘em, they’ll tell you the truth. They’ll say ‘This wouldn’t be happening without the Tatts’. And it wouldn’t!
“But if they think they’re a Nineties representation of what Rose Tattoo was about, then they’re misguided.
“Anyway, I don’t care what people say about my motivations!”
If Blood From Stone proves anything, it’s that Angry is not just living off his Rose Tattoo reputation.
And when he hits the road for the Aerosmith tour, Angry will be fronting a whole new outfit whose impressive line-up includes the afore-mentioned Riley plus American Bobby Barth on guitars, Jim Hilbun (formerly with the Angels) on bass, and former Venetians/Divinyls drummer Tim Powles.
I ask if all this means Rose Tattoo is finally dead. Angry still owns the rights to the name, and used it on the Beats From A Single Drum album because of contractual restrictions, even though he now describes the album as a “solo project”.
He swivels his head from side to side. No, the Tatts are not dead.
“As romantic as it sounds, I think Australian kids need bands like Rose Tattoo,” he says, adding: ”I believe that with all my heart. They need people who remain unbowed and with an element of truth.
“As egotistical as it may sound, I know there is truth in this album. Actually, Blood From Stone — symbolically — means life through truth. It’s just reflections on some truths I’ve discovered in my life.”
Slowly it becomes apparent that Anderson has set his new band a harrowing, some would say impossible, task: they have to BECOME a reincarnated Rose Tattoo. “I want to see all the beautiful things that Rose Tattoo represented rise again,” admits Anderson, “like the phoenix from the ashes.
“Rose Tattoo was always more a heartbeat, a soul, than the work of any one person. There is a snorting, blood-letting, ball-kicking band in existence that deserves and wants to be called that, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be.”
Welcome back to the streets…
Filed for: HOT METAL