“LIFE is a cliche,” theorises throaty BB Steal vocalist Craig Csongrady, thereby inventing the ultimate explanation for every decent rock’n’roll band n the world.
“You work, you go out on the weekend, you get drunk. It’s a cliche, but that is life.”
Csongrady, the mighty ll former Boss frontman was sounding a bit jingoistic up until then, when we spoke to him at PolyGram’s Sydney office. “Our ambition is to rock hard, rock ’til we drop, Just make good rock’n’roll.”
OK, so not the moat original line you’ve ever heard. But the funny thing is, you believe him. There’s no posing, he just says it as if it’s a totally new concept As if it really IS all that matters.
Csongrady should know what he’s talking about. He was brought up in Elizabeth, an Adelaide satellite town that had run out of
jobs by 1970. It was the town that spawned Jimmy Barnes, John Swan and Doc Neeson, where street fighting was a way of life and music and alcohol the only escapes. “I used to give John Swan a ride to rehearsals and I remember Jimmy Barnes with silver hair in a band you’ve never heard of,” said Csongrady.
He probably could have made it five times over, except for his determination to it his way and his lack of interest in success
on others’ terms. He turned down an offer to be vocalist in the new band formed by former Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stevens to make BB Steal a success.
Boss emerged from the mld-eighties as a sort of anonymous Aussie hard rock beast. Like so many other Australian bands, we
were assured they were huge overseas but never supplied with any proof. From the pubs of Sydney’s western suburbs playing attractive, melodic hard rock, they progressed to a simultaneous worldwide album release. In the days before Bon Jovi and after KISS,
they were little more than a curiousity in mainstream circles, but the US dollars didn’t come and three years ago, they disbanded in mysterious circumstances.
Csongrady laid low for two years, watching Van Halen, then the Jovis, make mincemeet of wimpy disco opposition. He quietly assembled a band consisting of bass player Peter Watertank, guitarists Warren Mason and Kevin Pratt and big Peter
Heckenberg on drums. ,They convinced hard rock big league PolyGram to take the plunge and their debut seven-inch, “I Believe”, last year scored them regular spots on MTV and some airplay. It was chunky alrpley rock-pop that deserved better, but the razor-edged sharpness of Boss had somehow been sacrificed for accessibility. According to The (Real) Voice, the fipside “Love’s On The Rocks” is more an indication of what the band’s about.
“That keyboard on the single ‘s actually a mistake, put in to satisfy the keyboard player,” the denim-jacketed Csongrady says,
The producer was a keyboard player, great guy, good producer, but he didn’t realise we don’t have keyboards in the band. When we do it for the album, we’l completely re-do it. What we’re doing now is puting out a song which they might like on radio. We
just want to get a sound for the band established and get everybody used to it.
Csongrady is polite and unhesitantly sincere. He has a passion forcars, and jokes the only reason he formed a band was to race in the Australian Grand Prix celebrity race. But he currently owns ‘a bomb’. It was stolen the day before the interview and found in several pieces soon after. “It pisses me off ,” he says.
He provides none of the clowning of friends Kings Of The Sun, nor the aloofness of a man who knows rock’s biggest names and counts members of Def Leppard among his friends. It was at a Jinmy Barnes concert (minus the silver hair) that Craig met one Phil Collen, Leps guitarist and keen talent scout. He was given a tape, heard it in a New Zealand hotel room and immediately placed a trans-Tasman phone call to Csongrady. raving and suggestion improvements.
“Phil said he’d like us to one day record with them in Holland, which is great,” saidCsongrady. “He’s such a great, together guy to work with. He’s a real straight-ahead sort of bloke, which is like us – we actually offered him a position in the band but he said he was a bit busy, haha.”
Collen’s perfectionism has perhaps rubbed off on the other’ ‘working class men’. Not for BB Steal the Swan/Barnes tour-tour-tour ethos. Craig wants to get it right.
‘We know we’ve only done a few shows, but it’s so long since we’ve been on the road. It’s like being e marathon turner. You can’t just go out there and expect to win a marathon after not having trained for a year or so. We need to get the album out and get the songs arranged properly and base our show around that. And rehearse for a good month and get the show happening.”
You can take the street out of the boy, but not the boy out of the street He tells of the time he was king-hit by a punter Cronulla and retaliated, flooring the poor bloke, He later found out his victim was a triathalon champion with biceps the size of tree trunks. “Never jump into the crowd.’ he warns earnestly.
Clearly, Craig Csongrady learnt to defend himself after years in a town which provided little other recreation but fighting. He was outraged at Kings Of The Sun’s eviction from the Sydney Entertainment Centre by the sensitive Gunners in December.
“I saw it happen. I tell you something, it’d take more than a security guard to chuck me out. They’re a fuckin’ Australian band being kicked out of an Australian venue by an American band. Why don’t they fuckin’ go back to where they came from?”
But for all the toughness of Elizabeth and the aggression of hard rock, Craig Csongrady is living proof that there is a choice apart from staying there or ending up like Guns N’Roses – desperately clinging to your streetwise past but succeeding only in being, in some people’s eyes, an unintentional parody of yourself.
Collen has a similar accent to most of the British immigrants Jimmy. John and Craig rew up with, and often punched out in stagnant Seventies Elizabeth. Collen is credited as producer/co-songwriter on the next ‘Steal single, “Heartbeat Away”. The album isn’t due out until June.
Craig just hopes it’ll be listened to. We’re not going to be the next U2. We’re not gang to be the next Beatles. We just want to entertain.
If that sounds corny to you, it’s you who was born in the wrong place. Not him.