By STEVE MASCORD
WHEN your most recent album is called The Last Real Rock’n’Roll, the future of said art form is probably as good a place as any to start a conversation.
Georg Dolivo has been leading Rhino Bucket since 1988. The first thing most of us knew about him was he sounded uncannily like Bon Scott and his band sounded equally uncannily like AC/DC.
That, and the band name.
Dolivo laughs. “What’s that band that I just heard that is really good? Portugal The Man. The greatest thing about it is for the longest time people said ‘Rhino Bucket is the worst name in rock’n’roll’. Now all these new bands are coming out and they have names that are just as bad as Rhino Bucket. We were decades ahead of our time in having really bad names. We were trailblazers in that respect.’
Other things have changed, too. Axl Rose is the lead singer of AC/DC. The cultural significance of rock’n’roll in the world is under question. Portugal The Man doesn’t sound like rock to me. Was the title of The Last Real Rock’n’Roll actually intended as an epitaph of sorts?
“I don’t think we ever think about things too deeply,” Dolivo responds down the line from Los Angeles.
“We like the title because we went in there with the same title that we’ve always had. We wanted to play as honestly as possible in the studio so we could do it live.
“You listen to some albums nowadays and the guitars are compressed and pro-tooled and … nothing sounds natural. It’s all pitch-perfect and it’s all timing-perfect and it’s all been computer generated or at least heavily influenced by samples and stuff like that.
“We’re, like, ‘we’re a rock’n’roll band. This is how you make a rock’n’roll record. You plug in two guitars, a bass, you mic up the drums, some idiot sings in the middle of it and then you put out the best you can’.”
Thanks to the involvement of Eddie Spaghetti of The Supersuckers, The Last Real Rock’n’Roll has some added elements from outside the Ackadacka pantheon, like female backing singers.
But it’s unlikely to, literally, be the last real rock’n’roll you hear. And rock’n’roll is highly unlikely to die with Rhino Bucket. Turns out that, despite the glass-half-empty title, Georg is actually a glass-half-full guy.
“People are complaining, saying it’s not like the good old days,” he comments.
“But the people complaining aren’t in Judas Priest. Judas Priest is doing just fine. I’ve been in this band for most of my life and I’m 140 years old. You either have a passion for it or you don’t and we do. We did our best to write the songs, we did our best to record the songs.
“You just do it. You can’t sit there and go ‘oh, there’s no record companies left’. Well, there are a couple but they only seem interested in Disney stars and there’s no record stores.
“That’s true but at the same time, if you have a curiosity now in music, regardless of where you are, as long as you have an internet connection, you can really get access to a lot of great new music all the time.
“This is a great time be around as far as being a listener.
“I remember being young and crazy going to record stores when they were still around and just sifting through … at first it was LP covers and then it was CDs and sometimes it was the cover that grabbed you and you would check it out and hopefully later on you had some listening stations.
“You’re actually at an advantage right now. Yeah, you have to sift through it all, like we all did back then in record stores, but now you can actually listen to it a little bit … rather than buying it because it has a fantastic cover, putting it on and going ‘oh my God this is crap’.”
During the course of our chat, which you can hear in full on the White Line Fever podcast, George speaks about touring Australia with The Angels and The Poor (still mates with Skenie and The Angels influenced the current record), the current state of AC/DC and how former guitarist Greg Fields became a wunderkind producer.
Two of these angles actually got major traction on rock news sites.
But for the purposes of this feature, we’ll stick to the philosophical question of whether, at some stage, rock will cease to exist.
“It’s not gonna die,” Dolivo insists.
“It’s gonna change. It’s not going to be, perhaps, what we like as much.
“Many years ago I was in the airport and I saw these guys and they were wearing what I thought were American bowling shirts. I thought they were on a bowling team. I was like ‘who the hell is that?’. It was some old doo-wop band from the late … I don’t know, whenever doo-wop was. It was before my time.
“They were there, they were going to some gig in upper Michigan or some place like that. I’m like, ‘alright’ and they asked what we were and we said ‘we’re this band, we play hard rock like AC/DC’. We might as well have told them ‘yeah, we build pyramids’. They were completely blank on it – but they were still doing it, you know?
“They had been popular back in the day, apparently, very popular, and they were doing their thing and they didn’t have any input into what was going on at that time. The same here. It may not be all wine and roses here for the bands that play hard rock but there’s plenty of great music.
“So, it’s never gonna die. There’s plenty of great music going on – and always will be.”
Long live the pyramid builders.