Oz Music Month - The 90s Rocked

Oz Music Month - The 90s Rocked


Baby Animals, The Living End, Grinspoon, Jebediah, Something For Kate, Bodyjar, Frenzal Rhomb, The Superjesus, You Am I, Tumbleweed, Powderfinger, Silverchair, Magic Dirt, Cosmic Psychos, Spiderbait, Regurgitator - The 90s was an amazing decade for Aussie rock, and seeing as though it's Aus Music Month we thought we'd start here. 

Have you heard about the Hotter Than Hell Tour that’s coming for us in 2018? I’ll give you some details in a bit, but if you loved 90s Australian rock, this is in your honey hole.

When the 90s rolled around I was in my mid-teens and music was completely taking over my life. Watching RAGE and Recovery, listening to community radio shows (and Triple J) to find the latest tunes, reading endless magazines from here and abroad, signing up to mailing lists, going to Big Day Out, swapping mix tapes that you’d made from recording the radio, and from your CD’s, it was an incredible time before the internet made it so much easier to find new music.

Luckily for us here in Australia in the 90’s, major record companies still cherished actual bands. Yes I know there are a few that still do now, but with the insurgence of grunge taking over the world in the late 80s and early 90s, it was harder not getting signed than it was to get signed, especially if you were a rock band. Radio stations were falling over themselves to champion the next big thing, and with commercial radio following indies like I mentioned, everyone wanted in on the act, and we, the listeners, were the winners.

Thanks to Triple J Unearthed who gave Grinspoon and Killing Heidi massive coverage and instilled them into the mainstream. Grinspoon of course being the first ever ‘unearthed’ band caved heads in everywhere once A Guide To Better Living was released in 1997. And rightly so, their post-grunge, alt metal vibe was right up my alley, and I flogged the hell out of that album, learning guitar to the whole thing. All my mates loved it, and we all had copies in our cars at all times. It was huge. Seeing them on the anniversary tour recently has been my highlight of 2017, best gig this year.

Killing Heidi as I mentioned were also privy to the unearthed machine and soon were picked up by music clip shows like RAGE and Video Smash Hits and of course one of the biggest selling points was that the band was from little known Violet Town in regional Victoria, followed by the fact that a brother and sister were in the group, in which lead singer Ella, was just 16 years old. "Weir" went massive.

I don’t actually recall where I first heard Adelaide powerhouse The Superjesus, but I remember the song was "Shut My Eyes". I was instantly drawn to Sarah’s voice, as I was to Suzi DeMarchi. There’s something about a powerful, slightly husky female voice blasting over crunching guitars that piqued my interest. I’m a lover of solid riffs, and TSJ had such a fat sound, it really ticked all boxes. Of course, as a young man, seeing Sarah for the first time, I was instantly in love. So I became a total fan. Like so many, I have completely lost track of how many times I have them play, in different parts of the country since first seeing them in 1998 supporting Veruca Salt at the Prince Bandroom.

By the mid 90’s there were so many buzz bands going around that it was almost hard to keep up. Some fell by the wayside sadly, whilst others forged on, but I guess that was the luck of the draw of being in a band at the time, you may have had a spark, but if it didn’t burn brightly, you were soon extinguished. Regurgitator was the surprise packet because it was a side project for all in the band. Had it not have been for Michael Parisi who noticed a certain ‘vibe’, perhaps we would have never have seen the dizzying heights of this weird outfit. Let’s face it, they were weird, but they were bloody magical. I didn’t really take to the first thing I heard, "Track 1", I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t affect and infect my brain until I heard things like, "Blubber Boy", "Black Bugs", "Kong Foo Sing", and "I Sucked a Lot Of Cock To Get Where I Am", to really ‘get the gurge’. They were another band whom I promptly bought albums from because I wanted to see what was next. They were exciting and different from the metal I was listening to. The start of "Kong Foo Sing" was SO DAMN COOL, almost Beastie Boys like, I loved it.

Something that I often think about is how we haven’t seen the proliferation of Australian rock bands make it onto commercial radio like we did in the 90s. It’s something that I tried to champion in my time on air, and it’s a subject that I know resonates with a lot of people. Working within the scene, I know that there are a plethora of bands that should be getting airplay, but struggle to past community radio. What we hear, these days, is what they call ‘heritage acts’ getting played. They are very much the bands I have spoken about in this article, and I don’t have a problem with it at all. However, should a new song ‘heritage act’ be added to rotation straight away just because they have that heritage, or should a burgeoning band of equal talent be championed? You and I both know the answer here. However, the argument of familiarity comes in, which to me is nonsense. At one point, Jebediah were a completely unknown band until Triple J took a chance and gave them heavy airplay via "Jerks Of Attention". Someone believed in the song, in the bands ability, and the fact that they were Australian and they proved to be a bloody big success.

It’s that kind of thinking that can revolutionise radio today. Even Triple J doesn’t step up with new rock music like it used to in the 90s. Don’t get me wrong, they absolutely still champion the unknowns, but the flavour tastes different these days. They are about what’s on trend, and what’s on trend? What they decide. Commercial radio is a business, so they have to stay safe to be all things to all people in their demographic, so it’s a credit to my last station for giving me a shift to present a heavy metal show. That was taking a chance, that was listening, I just wish more would do it these days.

It’s not all doom and gloom my friends, luckily for us, these heritage acts are still producing music and are still touring, and doing it better than ever. Look at Frenzal Rhomb. Here you have a band that has almost disintegrated, literally through injuries, weird infections, broken bones and more, and they STILL smash it out of the park every time they play live or record a new album. I don’t remember when I first heard them, but I’m pretty sure I saw them live for the first time at Rock Above The Falls (Falls Festival) in 1994, I could be wrong, I was pretty drunk. They became an obsession for me though, and I bought everything they released and went to see them whenever I could. In 1999, I interviewed them when I was doing a night show in Mandurah, Western Australia, then saw them in Rockingham. The next day we snuck in a ‘sly nine’ at the local golf course. I love this band.

If you’re feeling a touch nostalgic after reading this, great news, the Hotter Than Hell Tour is about to launch around Australia where you’ll get to see some of these bands and more. Check out all the details at grab your tickets here and get ready to slam down some Fruity Lexia. We’re goin' in hot!

Keep yourself occupied with this playlist...

And for more 90s Oz music that will take you back to that incredible era, here's our 90s Oz playlist...

- Higgo

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