By STEVE MASCORD
IT’S a curious addition to the bill for a festival north of Brisbane headlined by Jon Stevens and Ross Wilson. If you show up early to the Sandstone Point Hotel on May 19, you can catch Kings Of The Sun.
These are four words that can send the heart of any late-eighties/early nineties Australian rock fan into palpitations. The preening, spectacular blond-maned frontman Jeffrey Hoad and his relentless, showy-but-techically brilliant drumming brother Clifford,
Only one problem: which “Kings Of The Sun” is it?
The Gold Coast brothers are famously estranged. Cliff revived the brand half a decade ago but isn’t currently active while Jeff has been busy promoting what was once their both post-Kings project, The Rich and Famous.
“KOTS is fronted by Jeffrey Hoad, Dean Turner on bass, Dean Reeson on drums – guitarist Glenn Morris (pending his availability),” came the response.
There you go. One of the cars is in the garage so the other is going out for a spin. During an earlier, wildly entertaining interview with Jeffrey, Hot Metal got the distinct impression that he wouldn’t be fronting any version of Kings Of The Sun any time soon.
“Maybe on another planet,” Jeffrey had said.
“I don’t really think there’s ever been a formal agreement (over the name). But I think Clifford has taken Kings Of The Sun and that’s where he’s gone with his stuff and I’ve gone with Rich and Famous because the Rich and Famous, to me, was something that came after Kings Of The Sun and I as comfortable with that.
“The reason we changed the name in the first place was to escape the whole eighties rock genre in our minds at that point. I was happy to do that because grunge took over. So the Rich & Famous became a free, open, palette of creativity.
“I was always happy to take that and he was happy to take Kings Of The Sun although they we’ve never discussed it. But I’m pretty sure he’s happy and I’m happy. That’s all it is. There’s no ‘owning’ or whatever.
“He still played on those records and I played on those records. This is the new phase of the Rich & Famous and hopefully it’s the most successful one.”
The big question, of course, is why they separated in the first place.
After a short pause, Jeffrey says: “We were never conjoined twins so it’s not unusual that two brothers get a little bit sick of each other and separate. That’s all it is.”
Have there been talks regarding a reunion? “Not from my side or his side, no. A lot of people like yourself might say it but it’s a bit like Guns N’Roses, isn’t it? Who’d have ever thought they would have got back together again?
“…let alone Axl fronting AC/DC. That was the most mind-blowing thing I’ve ever seen in my life – who knows what’s down the road? My mum might join the band.”
During an often hilarious 20 minutes, Jeffrey suggests that creative stagnation is the cause of many a rock’n’roll death and reflects on Kings Of The Sun’s legacy as a straight-ahead hard rock band with swagger that turned heads in Europe and the US but was misunderstood at home.
I, of course, wrote the story that got them kicked out of the Sydney Entertainment Centre by Axl Rose in 1988. We have come to look at our heroes from that era kind of like veterans, coming home from a war in which nobody got killed but everyone got drunk, high and laid.
They walk into a room and we intellectually swoon.
“I’ll relate this question to Eddie Kramer, who produced our first album,” Jeff says when I ask how that time of his life appears to him.
“We did that album in 1987. Hendrix, he died in 1970. What’s the eighties now? It’s 30 years back. When I was asking him about Hendrix, it was only just around the corner – 15 years! And I was asking, he didn’t want to know about it, ‘that’s the past, that’s the past’. Hendrix was closer to him when I was asking him about it than my past, the eighties, is to me now.
“Those were the last days of doing the whole slog, the last days of a smoky room and rock’n’roll. No-one wants to go into a smokey room of rock’n’roll anymore. The double four-way, the roadies, the PA, the whole thing.
“We were chomping at the bit to get out of Australia. We were opening for Wa Wa Nee, not knocking them.
“When we got to Europe, I think it was Kerrang! magazine that nominated us the third best rock band for the year. We opened for KISS. We went to our manager and said ‘we’ve got to get back to Europe, they love us’ and he said ‘when America falls, Europe will fall’. Those were his famous words of wisdom. But by that stage, there was this hierarchy crap going on in the record company and we missed our boat in Europe. I would have loved to have gone back to Europe and had a following because they are diehard rockers and they love it. England was the home of Kerrang! magazine so they loved us too but we never got back there. It’s just misspent youth.
“I’m in no great rush to jump in a Torago and drive to Sydney, play in front of 150 old diehard fans – as much as I love them. The rock circuit of Australia is gone.”
Learning to deal with the idea of the audience’s expectations remaining exactly the same while your creative needs evolve is part of an artistic life, Jeff says (but he doesn’t say it in such wanky terms – they’re mine).
“It’s a bit like people who say they hate their job. There’s a club for that. It’s called the bar – and everybody’s there, ay?”. Then there’s that laugh we remember from ’88.
“I think every artist goes through phases of creativity, like ‘I’ve had a gutful of this’.
“Put it in perspective; Chris Cornell’s just died or killed himself. People like Michael Jackson and Elvis … there’s the 27 brigade, with Kurt Cobain saying ‘I’m going to kill myself right now’ or there’s the later-in-the-career type people. It’s almost as though they go out to do it again, it’s not what it was, it’s something different, and they go ‘I can’t handle this I don’t want to repeat the past, I want to do something fresh or whatever but all people want me to do is what I did!’. The one trick pony thing. ‘It’s not me anymore’ and they freak out. This is what I think.”
There are things I wanted to ask when I finally got to talk to Jeff but many of them have passed into irrelevance. Yes, Jeff was angry when Cliff first came out and said he wasn’t interested in doing music any more. Yes, he was displeased Daddy Was A Hobo Man came out as a Kings Of The Sun record.
There was a court appearance that you can find on the Courier-Mail website should you chose to look.
But, as is often the case as the second half century of one’s life approaches, no word has more relevance that “perspective”.
Rather than rail against the state of the music industry, Jeff wonders at the ability to reach so many far flung people via the internet. He knows the album is dead – and that’s fine.
And with the Rich and Famous’s Take Us To Your Leader, he’s satisfying his creative muse.
As for that gig at the Sandstone Point Hotel? It should be no surprise to find a king of the sun on another planet.