Mon 5 Jan 2015

PBS' Prince of Darkness riffs on his 30+ years of putting punk rock up on the PBS airwaves, the good old days in St Kilda and the shape of punk to come.


Phil MacDougall Interview by Matt Ryan
As a teenager discovering new music, for me there was two names in town. Neil Rogers Australian Mood on RRR, and Phil MacDougall’s Sunglasses After Dark on PBS. Phil’s program has been a great stomping ground for discovering the best in underground/indie music here in Melbourne as well as the best garage/punk rock tunes coming out from overseas. On top of his legendary wireless show Phil also ran Reactor Records in the 80s, which was a home for legendary Melbourne hardcore bands Depression and Vicious Circle and many others. Phil let me talk to him after his program one Thursday evening in the PBS studio.

Munster: What was your first exposure to alternative music?

Phil: After starting listening to music in 74, it wasn’t til 79, after punk, that a school friend Leon Richardson got me onto punk. I missed out on the initial punk stuff from 76-77 even though I’d heard of the Sex Pistols, wasn’t til 79 I got into punk, I discovered the Stranglers, the Clash, Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, and it went from there.
Bands in Melbourne took their influences from overseas; the Boys Next Door did a Ramones cover. Ramones and Blondie were the first two punk bands to tour here; the Stranglers came here round that time. But the Oz bands like the Saints had their own sound and didn’t take any influences from overseas bands, except they did the Otis Redding song ‘Security’. And the Saints go back to 74; I’ve got a live CD of them jamming in a garage that goes back to 74 that was released on Hot records ten years ago. Then of course there was Radio Birdman in Sydney, and them and the Saints really kicked it all off. Deniz Tek of course lived in Detroit and came over here in 71 or 72. They were influenced by the Stooges and MC5 but Birdman wrote these great original songs and had an original sound even though they were influenced by those bands. Then in Melbourne you had the Boys Next Door and the whole Seaview Ballroom scene, which had Gary Gray’s Sacred Cowboys, Ollie Olsen, experimental stuff like Primitive Calculators. So some bands took their influences overseas but Birdman, Saints and Boys Next Door all had an original sound from the beginning which was great for us living in Australia. The introduction for me to Oz music and what made me excited about the whole local scene was seeing the Birthday Party at the Seaview Ballroom in 1980, I never saw the Boys Next Door at the Tiger Lounge which I regret. They played under the name the Cavemen I heard about that show but I never went to it. So that got me involved in the crazy mixed up world of music, and then came the Go-Betweens and the Laughing Clowns, and I just went with it.

Munster: So was word of mouth the only real way to discover new music back then?

Phil: To a certain degree. But one of the first times I heard punk music was on the radio, when Bohdan X, from Adelaide who moved to Melbourne with JAB. He had a show on RRR and he played the Pistols, the Stranglers and the Clash. Bohdan was a friend of mine. And Bruce Milne had a Thursday show and he was playing all the new singles from the UK. But it was obviously pre-internet so it was hard tracking stuff down, and then PBS started broadcasting in 1979 and it took a few months but they starting playing punk rock, but RRR in the early days was the only outlet for punk music. If you had hip friends, and I did with Leon Richardson, and he got into reggae, but he was into punk first in 77, then he got into reggae and he got me onto punk. The only outlet to buy the records was Archie and Jugheads which was in the basement in an arcade in Collins St which then became the legendary Missing Link records run by Keith Glass, god bless his soul he’s a great guy, now living in Alabama, and Readings Books and Records in Lygon St in Carlton. They used to sell punk records and they would put them on the wall and would put safety pins in the plastic jackets which sometimes got through the singles which was annoying. I remember going to Readings one day with a few mates and I bought all the early Kraftwerk LPs and then walked to the city. But those two shops from memory were the only two that sold punk records. But if you had cool friends and most of the people in school were squares or straight, but we were the rebellious ones, but through Leon I found the music I love.

Munster: How did you join PBS?

Phil: Again my mate Leon Richardson, he wanted to present a reggae show and I wanted to do a 60 garage rock/punk show. And play all the stuff that would come out on the Nuggets compilation and out on the Pebbles and Back from the Grave comps. We went to a meeting when PBS was at the Prince of Wales hotel. He got a reggae show and I got a Wednesday midnight to 2am show doing 60s garage punk, along with the cooler bands from the 60s like the Doors, the Stooges, New York Dolls and the Velvet Underground. That show was the Classical Gas show. I did that for three or four years. In the 80s I did a Wednesday show from 6 to 8 which was a punk show and that morphed into the Road Runner show which was a Thursday drive show. And they all morphed into Sunglasses After Dark which started in 1987.

Munster: SO all the shows you’ve done have been guitar rock as the main theme.

Phil: Well I also played a lot of industrial music when that stuff was coming up in the late 80s early 90s. And hip hop. You couldn’t not be influenced by Public Enemy, NWA and Ice T. It was like the new punk. If you were into punk you couldn’t not be influenced by what was happening in Compton and Brooklyn. When I started playing hip hop the Melbourne audience hated it and I don’t know why. If you were into Dead Kennedys and Crass you couldn’t not like the stuff coming from America between 87 and 92. But I go a lot of flak for that. Sunglasses After Dark used to be half garage/punk rock and the other half hardcore rap and people kept complaining but then when Public Enemy toured and played Festival Hall, surprise surprise all the people complaining about me playing rap were at the show. So go figure (laughs). But my show is/has been guitar rock n roll and punk all the way.

Munster: I saw Public Enemy at the Corner this year and Chuck D said Melbourne was the hip hop capital of Oz. Maybe you started that.

Phil: (Laughs). There were a few shows playing hip hop before I did. I also did a hardcore rap show for a year on Thursdays called the Rap Attack. I think Stu Farrell and Bias B have a lot to do with pioneering rap in Melbourne.

Munster: What were your memories of PBS being located at the Prince of Wales?

Phil: It was a great time I spent a lot of my youth in Fitzroy Street. PBS started in December 1979 and I joined in 1980. The studio was at the back of the Prince of Wales (POW, the piano bar, there was a corridor that went into the piano bar, you kept walking, and it was a big walk, PBS had its studios there. And it was one office, a technical room and a few studios. We’d broadcast from the POW for four years then moved to the Park Lake buildings at the top of Fitzroy St, and we were there a while. Now we’re in Easey Street in Collingwood which we’ve been here for 12 years. You could see the Gravy Mansion from the POW studios where Fred Negro and the other members of I Spit on Your Gravy lived, which was just on Ackland St. The POW had drag shows during the week which was bizarre, and the bottom was super rough, really rough but I was so young I didn’t know I’d just drink with the Gravys. And they had bands in the main room and piano bar. We did a lot of live-to-airs in the main room. The Fall, the Scientists, the Go-Betweens, The Moodists, John Cooper Clarke.

Munster: Nico?

Phil: I saw Nico at the POW but I don’t think we put that to air. But that same year Johnny Thunders played that year. I don’t know which band it was he had. I saw Nico, she played the main room and at the end of the show she left the stage walked through the audience to the corridor and went to her room. She didn’t want to stick around, but she walked past me. It was great broadcasting from such a legendary pub. On the weekend they had the best stuff. The band who ruled that room from 86 to the 90s was the Cosmic Psychos, they ruled. And I Spit on Your Gravy then came God, Powder Monkeys and Hoss, the Freeloaders. PBS put on punk nights and put it to air, Depression, Vicious Circle and Permanent Damage.

Munster: Please tell the reader about your band Human Waste

Phil: Human Waste was formed in the mid 80s by basically PBS punk announcers. Myself on vocals, Paul Waste on guitar, Geoff Simmons on drums and Stan on bass. All of which were doing punk radio shows on PBS at the time. I only did like four shows with them from memory cause I was at the time to busy with running Reactor Records which by 1986 was a full-time job. I played two gigs in the pubs and a couple of parties. After I left Peter Damage took over on vocals and bass, Stan left as well and the band turned into Extremes and then Legend Killers which both released an LP. Human Waste did however record a demo tape which a very small number was put out. Memories from that time, getting drunk, seeing heaps of bands and partying too hard in St. Kilda!

Munster: How did Reactor records start?

Phil: At the time no one was releasing hardcore in Australia on vinyl. And I had a lot of respect for Missing Link, Au-Go-Go, Waterfront and Greasy Pop Records, but none were putting out hardcore punk. I saw Depression at the John Barleycorn in Collingwood and Vicious Circle. No one would ave put them out unless I put them in the studio. I ran the label from 84 to 88. The biggest band was Depression, then Vicious Circle, Permanent Damage, Psychotic Maniacs. I released 21 releases in that time. They sold well. The Depression debut single Money Chain, the first pressing was 500. I took 50 to Greville and they all went fast.

Munster: That’s unheard of these days, 50 copies going like that.

Phil: That was repressed twice more. 1500 all up. If I doubled that it would have sold. Depression were as good as any band overseas. Other bands approached me to release their stuff. Some bands I didn’t get on the label for one reason or another. Civil Dissident I didn’t get to do. Mad Flowers I didn’t get to do. Paul Elliot did I Spit on your Gravy’s LP. On the back of the cover everyone from the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane scene that helped out the Gravys got a thank you. There’s about 1000 people thanked, there was a legendary figure called Ron Murder and this name comes up at the end of every paragraph so his names mentioned heaps of times. It was a great time running the label but I wound it up because the distributors wouldn’t pay the money I was owed. The stuff was selling but I wasn’t getting my money back. But when I finished up in 88 I still had a lot of stock left and it took me about five years to sell.

Munster: The Depression Reactor compilation came out a while back so there’s obviously still interest in that music you released.

Phil: Another label put out a Depression comp and I was fine with that. Over the last four or five years Reactor has been reactivated. And the first three Depression LPs were re-released as The Reactor Years. And also I did a comp of Perdition which was the second release I did. They played with Depression all the time at POW and the Ballroom. All the hardcore/punk bands would always play in St Kilda. This whole scene in Fitzroy/Collingwood wasn’t happening at the time they always came to Fitzroy St to play. So about two years ago I did a comp of Perdition records I released, it was called Not Just Another Anthology. That hasn’t sold as well but that doesn’t bother me. I just wanted it out.

Munster: I read your interview in Maximumrocknroll that one of Depression’s albums cost $7,500 to record which is an insane amount of money for an indie band at the time.

Phil: A mate of mine Geoff Simmons we went to USA in 88 and met a hero of mine Tim Yohannan who was the head of MRR at the time. He put me and Simo on one of the one hour MRR shows. That was really cool. Tim’s now passed away sadly. That was pretty fantastic getting interviewed on the legendary MRR show. But the Depression LP cost a lot. For Money Chain me and the band put in $50 and recorded it in a studio in Surry Hills. The mini-LP called Australia cost a lot. Smear wanted Lobby Loyde to produce it. He said we have enough songs to make a mini-LP, and he said “Let’s book the most expensive studio and get Lobby Loyde” and I was like “Fucking hell”. The budget got to $10,000. That was when they went all punk/metal and that was one of the first punk/metal things to come out in the world. They combined black metal/hardcore punk and death metal. Lobby kept remixing it and the days went on and on and on. It cost ten grand just recording it. It was done at Richmond Recorders. I went down there after a week and their still mixing and I’m like “Come on guys I’m running a little indie label”. But Lobby and Smear kept listening back to it, and it only took a few days to record. So finally they said its done but unfortunately it sounded really muddy, you gotta have a break, in the 80s I spent many hours in the studio when my bands were recording and I found it very interesting very educational. But you need a break and to listen to it with fresh ears. So I had to put it out but no one has said that. And it’s produced by the legendary man Lobby so what can you say, was worth it in the long run. Would love to put it out again on vinyl. Be good to have a big sticker saying produced by Lobby Loyde, because its true and he got paid a lot of money for it.

Munster: Some names you got to PBS include Kev Lobotomi, Michel Mulholland and Paul Conroy. Tell us about them please.

Phil: I’ve been friends with Paul for 35 years. His show was Apocalypse Now which was a punk show. Before punk I was into 60s garage. At age 16 or 17 he did a two hour show. We had a Saturday show from 6 to 8 and that had rotating hosts. Paul, Geoff Simmons, Dave Ross, Paul Waste and me occasionally if I wasn’t doing my 60s show. At a party in St Kilda after a ballroom gig a meet Kev Lobotomi. He was into the new bands coming through like Butthole Surfers, Big Black all the Touch and Go bands. He started at PBS in 85 I think. Then about four years ago Mikey and I were at a gig at the ESPY and said he wanted to do a show. I’ve known Mikey since the early 80s but our paths went separate ways. He used to come on to Sunglasses After Dark to play a few songs he would bring in. He was more into UK post-punk stuff, and gave the show a bit of a different direction which I enjoyed. Then the timeslot before mine came available and Garry Seven the program coordinator gave Mikey his own show Junkyard and what a monster he’s created – he hasn’t looked back.

Munster: How did you feel when you heard the 12FU song called Phil, written about you?

Phil: I was totally blown away that 12FU wrote a song about me. Michael Mulholland kinda mentioned it to me in passing a few months ago. Then when I heard it sounds a bit like Rancid crossed with Mariachi El Bronx with a ska feel. It has Johnny Kicks from Bitter Sweet Kicks on bass and Jack Howard on brass and a few friends on backup vocals. It’s only on CD burn for radio stations at the moment but Tony Biggs on RRR has played it and the PBS punk announcers have given it a spin. I really like it, would make a great 7 '' vinyl single.

Munster: Is that true you went to Sydney to see The Clash with Pete?

Phil: Yep there’s a legendary guy in St Kilda called Alright Peter who’s good friends with Fred Negro and would get on stage and sing with I Spit on your Gravy. And this guy Pete is the brother of Leon Richardson who got me into punk and also got his little brother into punk. So I see Peter a lot in St Kilda and what happened was The Clash toured and Peter wanted to go see The Clash and so did his girlfriend at the time. The three of us drove up in my 1976 white HR Holden up to Sydney. They did seven gigs at the Capitol Theatre and I went to one and Peter went to two. But the classic thing about that gig was that Peter knew that Joe Strummer loved his fans. At the end of the show we went to the back door at the Capitol Theatre in Chinatown, this was after the gig and after a while, Cosmos Vinyl, one of their roadie friends escorted us to the bandroom and it was fucking wild. This was an hour after they finished and they had some fans in there and I took a whole lot of photos, back then I used to take photos of bands, I’ve given it up but I shouldn’t have. We met the band and Peter was wrapped. Can’t remember much else I don’t think I said anything I was really young at the time but I think Peter might have said something to someone in the band.

Munster: Tonight on the show you had a Halloween theme for the show, so I gather you were prepared with that, but with the track list do you prepare it before hand or do you do it in the studio as the show goes along?

Phil: I do it before hand. Not to the second some weeks if I get a lot of new releases from PBS or from the Melbourne bands some weeks I might spent a good four hours on preparation, even more sometimes, but some weeks and if there’s no new releases and I’m just doing greatest hits then I might spend an hour. But sometimes if I do a special like a did last week on the Dwarves, who I really like and I see you like to, or a really big special, if I’m interviewing a legendary artists in my genre from overseas and I’m spending the whole two hours on them, I might spend a couple of hours writing questions, then come in and record the interview or do it live o air, whichever one it is, and then of course play all their stuff, but on average I spend four to five hours on preparing the show. I take it pretty seriously and I was thinking about this a few months ago, and I thought I’m still doing it and still enjoying it and I really want to take it seriously from now on, I don’t want to do it half-heartedly. So I do put quite a bit of preparation. And I also take PBS as a station very seriously.

Munster: Tell us about interviewing John Lydon in 1984.

Phil: When I get asked about people I’ve interviewed over the years and I’ve interviewed lots of people over the years both locally and internationally, sometimes when PBS have their Radio Festival they pick presenters to do interviews to plug the station and I’ve done a few PR things too, but when I do those interviews and I list all the people I’ve interviewed, when I get to John Lydon they stop and say “Oh what was he like”? I do get asked, I’ll roll off a few names, Henry Rollins, John Spencer Blues Explosion, Sonic Youth, Powder Monkeys. With John Lydon, myself and fellow presenter Declan, we interviewed John and Martin Atkins, who was in PiL at the time, at the Old Melbourne Hotel. It was when PiL toured in 1984. He was really nice, he was cool, he said he liked my hair; it was died black at the time. I was going on a bit about punk and he said he didn’t like the second generation of punk, the mohawks, thought it was uniformed and standard, he thought it was liked you were in the army. That music (Discharged, GBH, Partitions) was big at the time. He didn’t like the uniform. I was pretty young when I did that, but he was really nice. I’ve interviewed hundreds of bands but the one I wanted to mention was Captain Sensible from the Damned. In the old Parklake buildings in Fitzroy St, it was about 15-18 years ago. That was fantastic; he hung out for an hour. He had a Japanese girlfriend called Coo Coo and he kept referring to her and it was really funny. I asked him about his hit ‘WOT’ and asked him about the history of the Damned and he was really funny. When you interview musos some can be really boring or really pretentious. Or some can be in a bad mood and the record company drags them around and they have to play that night. John Spencer was really cool too. Other really great interview with one of my heroes, there’s always a fight with overseas bands, is Kev going to interview them or me, and Kev scoops me a lot of the time, but we came to a mutual agreement and we both interviewed Turbonegro. We interviewed Hank and Euroboy. That was pre-recorded. They were cool, Hank was fine. When MC5 came there were only three originals but I had them on, Wayne Kramer, Denis Thompson and Michael Davis. I’ve done Marky Ramone twice, once when he was here with the Ramones and once when he was playing some tracks with the Spazzys at the Corner. He gave me a really good interview. Also one of my electronic heroes David Thrussell from Snog, which was a really intelligent interview. The Jesus Lizard, John Cooper Clarke, at the last minute I filled in for Kim Walvisch on a Wednesday arvo. She had lined up, on their first Australian tour, none other than the White Stripes. Unfortunately I didn’t have my records on me to get autographed, but was with Jack and Meg White their first Australian tour, and it was in that time when they said they were brother and sister. Meg didn’t say much but Jack was cool. I met them backstage at the Corner after their gig and they were really nice. Meg was really shy but Jack was cool. But this year I interview anther hero of mine Jerry A from Poison Idea he gave me a really good interview. I’ve interviewed Jaz from Killing Joke three times. The first time was at the POW with Declan and that was OK, second time they just come in from overseas and they were at a hotel in Sydney and they just hit the minibar and I think were drinking on the plane ride and he was drunk and was so bad I couldn’t even broadcast it which made people want to hear it even more. Third time he spoke for forty minutes but I only got two questions in he went on and on about world politics and how he hates America and he never wants to go back there. But he gave me three different interviews. And Geoff from SixFtHick brought in John Reis in my show when he was in town from Rocket From The Crypt, and I said to Geoff I really want a member of the band to come in and he did it as a favour. But they’re some of my favourite interviews.

Munster: If there was someone who was a notoriously difficult interview (e.g. Lou Reed) and the opportunity came up would you go with it or not bother?

Phil: I’ll paraphrase that, the two people who I most want to interview that I haven’t and are still alive are David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Bowie is a great guy he would be great to interview, Iggy Pop might be difficult. I’ve found over the years it’s better to not interview your heroes because they let you down. But there have only been three difficult interviews over the years. Jaz from Killing Joke which I already mentioned, Mick Blood from the Lime Spiders. His manager took him to the races beforehand and he came in pissed as a fart and gave me a really bad interview. And Blackie from the Hard Ons on the phone. He’d been driving his cab all night and he had a bad night so that wasn’t great but we love him anyway. Ray from the Hard Ons we love as well he’s one of my best mates in rock n roll. Also a difficult interview was their first tour of Australia, and again it was the record label, these labels when they get them down they work them hard and they might be nice guys but they gave me a bit of a snotty interview, and that was the Black Keys. They were OK but again I think the label just pushed them too hard. But Lou Reed god bless his soul, he would be really hard. Say it was ten years ago, or twenty, you would be a nervous wreck, and if you weren’t after that you would be after. And I think Iggy would be hard too, Bowie would be cool. But Lydon has put out his new autobiography which I’ve just ordered and can’t wait to read called Anger Is An Energy. John Lydon’s got the right to be difficult because of who he is, god bless him. It’s hard to get interviews with your heroes and you’ve done very well getting interviews for your zine, but if the chance comes up to interview your heroes you should go for it but some people can be difficult.

Munster: You said you’d like to take PBS seriously is there any changes you’d like to see made or anything the station could do better?


Munster: What are your current favourite bands in Melbourne?

Phil: Ausmuteants who have just released their second LP, Cuntz who have just made a live record called Here Come the Real Boys from when they toured the States. 12FU, Paul Conroy’s very Ramones, their great in spirit, Bits of Shit, Batpiss, an electronic duo who come from Brisbane but they rarely play called White Hex, Nun. All the new stuff that plays the Tote. All the new stuff from Off the Hip Records, Johnny Casio, La Bastard. The Interceptors, Levitating Churches.

Munster: Might be a stupid question, but after all these years what is it that keep you going to shows to find new stuff and going to the record shop to find new releases?

Phil: Just the love of music, it’s in my blood. I started listening to music in 1974. I had to listen to a lot of rubbish before the good stuff came in. But the love and dedication to music. I still get excited getting a release from a local Melbourne band then they come in and I interview them and I go see them live. I don’t see as many gigs as I used to but I still try and go out once a week. I’ll still put on the first Velvet Underground LP, or the Stooges, Hard Ons or the Easybeats. You’re wearing a Clowns t-shirt, they’re a band patron to my show I’ve seen them live several times. The excitement of putting a new LP on the turntable, the crackle before the needle gets into the groove of the sound. I like film and art, and like you years ago when I was growing up I read William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, the beat poetry. I tried to read as much as I could and see as much theatre and film as I could. And stencil art too. Just the total love of music keeps you driving. I guess it’s like John Peel or Rodney Bingenheimer, Rodney still does his radio show, just absorbing it and loving it.

Munster: Mess + Noise reviewed the Depression Reactor compilation said they wonder what Phil MacDougall will be best known for, Reactor Records or Sunglasses After Dark? Do you have a preference you would like to be remembered for?

Phil: The radio show because I’ve done it for longer. The label was four years and a brief period of history, and I put a lot of money and love into it. But with the radio, I’ve done a radio show every week since September 1980. As mentioned before it was originally the Classical Gas show, then the punk show, then the Road Runner show, then that became Sunglasses After Dark. I’ve DJed at clubs and pubs over the years but the thing I’ve always gone back to is the radio because that’s my first love. And with DJing sometimes you’re there until 5am, you don’t get paid till 7am and you don’t crash till 8am. You can do that when you’re 18, but probably the radio shows I’d like to be remembered for. I’d like to thank PBS for letting me present a weekly radio show since 1980. I should say I’ve done the show since 1980 without any major breaks. I went to America in 1988 for two months. Four or five years ago I had six weeks off, and had a week off here and there, but aside from those two breaks, like Vince Peach from PBS I’ve done a show every week since 1980.

Munster: Finally, favourite Fall album please.

Phil: (Laughs) An easy one because they toured it and PBS put it live to air, Hex Enduction Hour and the song ‘The Classical’, absolute killer. I’m a big Fall fan, but you cannot fault the first four or five Fall LPs, Live at the Witch Trials, Dragnet, Grotesque, Slates and Hex. Mark E. Smith’s vocals I can’t understand what he’s singing now. He’s had too much alcohol. Everyone should read the book the Fallen. God bless Mark E. Smith and god bless John Lyndon. And god bless PBS.
Munster: Phil thanks for your time.

Phil: Thanks Matt and all the best with your fanzine Munster Times it’s a great fanzine and we all really like it here at PBS so all the best to you as well.

Tune to Sunglasses After Dark with Phil, every Thursday 8-10PM.

This article originally appeared in Issue 12 of the Munster Times and is reproduced here with the author's permission. PBS FM_0.JPG