Ted Mulry Gang drummer Herm Kovac talks about ‘new’ band members Steve Mulry and Mark Evans, the new expanded edition of the great TMG LIVE, the band’s ties to AC/DC and much more.
A couple of weeks out from the re-release of TMG LIVE – a remixed and remastered version of the original 1978 live album, complete with 10 extra tracks – and the beginning of a fresh run of dates, TMG drummer Herm Kovac gives us the lowdown on what’s going with the reactivated band. Of course Ted himself is no longer with us, but the new band - which features Ted’s hard rocking brother Steve on vocals, and Ted’s old mate and original AC/DC member Mark Evans on bass – is keeping the songs and legacy alive.
Old fans are indeed loving the new band; one reviewer, Cowboy Col from Rockbrat, said late last year after catching a couple of shows that they were “the BEST live band in Oz Rock by far!’. Of their live version of AC/DC’s "It’s A Long Way To The Top" Col said “this is as close as you are gonna get to the vintage AC/DC sound - and as I’ve said before, these guys are Australian hard rock royalty.” Check out the complete Rockbrat piece here, and another one from them that asks the not at all unreasonable question Why T.M.G are not in the ARIA Hall Of Fame?. Infact the whole Rockbrat site I worth a look if you love your rock, and you can read more from Col on TMG in the TMG Live liner notes.
ILYOS: So TMG are about to hit the road again. How did the current line-up come together, and how is it sounding with Steve and Mark? For people who’ve yet to see this line-up, what can they expect?
HK: Tony Grace from the Harbour Agency talked me into it as I had no interest at all as I had not played drums since 2001. When Mark Evans mentioned Ted’s legacy and reminding people of how great his music was I got interested. If Steve Mulry didn’t come on board I doubt we would do it. We had to get a bass player as Ted played bass and Steve doesn’t and Mark was a close friend from when we were both starting out so he was the obvious choice.
People will still hear the hits and album tracks as close as they were recorded (we don’t wing it) but it would have more of an edge because of Mark and Steve. Someone did comment that it was a cross between early AC/DC and TMG.
TMG at the Revesby Worker’s Club 2016 – "It’s A Long Way To The Top":
ILYOS: Congratulations on the forthcoming expanded reissue of TMG Live. Can you tell our readers a bit about the process of going back to the tapes, remixing etc.?
HK: Actually it was quite emotional at times when I soloed Ted’s vocals and heard him talking and cracking jokes. I was surprised how good the playing actually was and how great the songs were. Ted’s vocals were amazing.
The quality between reels of tape differed and some reels were on their last legs. I had to bake the tapes then transfer into the digital domain for archiving, remixing and remastering. Not every record company hands over tapes for the band to play with and for that I am eternally grateful.
ILYOS: The album sounds great – very raw and powerful, and shows off what a dynamite love band TMG was at the time. Did you guys see yourselves more as a live band or a studio band at the time?
HK: To be perfectly honest we thought we were the Stones live and the Beatles in the studio ha ha I wish. Having Beatles engineer - Richard Lush - produce us made us look at recording songs that were just for listening. We always had a batch that we knew would be live songs so we recorded those basically live.
"I’m Free/Goodbye" live 1976:
ILYOS: The band started its career at Alberts before moving to Mushroom where it continued its great success. There are a lot of great songs from the Mushroom albums on the live record. Were there any musical changes that came with the move? Obviously you no longer had Ted Albert as a producer.
HK: After our first album which Ted Albert produced we did two more at Alberts which we produced along with engineer Bruce Brown. Our first Mushroom album The TMG Album was an extension of those as we produced with help from John Sayers. When Richard Lush produced Disturbing The Peace there was a noticeable difference. It went up a notch. I realised what a producer did when he worked on "Lazy Eyes". Originally it was just a rock song similar in feel to "Naturally". Richard put acoustic guitars, twin solos, Beatlesque harmonies and I played some keyboards on it. It was transformed into a pop song and was one of the first Australian records to crack the US Billboard Top 100. The way we arranged it would not have got a look in. It sucked.
"Lazy Eyes", from Disturbing The Peace:
ILYOS: How come Vanda & Young didn’t produce you when you were on Alberts? I believe it was Ted who also encouraged your personal interest in recording and studio work – can you talk a bit about that?
HK: Vanda and Young did come and produce us but it lasted one day. The track was "I’m On Fire" the B side to "Jump In My Car". They wanted it “black” and funky, like "Love Is In The Air". I remember George dancing in front of me; dancing so I could get a groove. I could not stop laughing. The next day we told Ted Albert it wasn’t working so he finished it off as well as producing the album. To George and Harry’s credit they could see we wanted to be a rock band and supported us and came back to help on a couple of the other tracks. George was aware, as was Ted Albert, that I was into recording so both encouraged me. George lent me his Brenell 8 track to practice on and Ted Albert as a present gave me a pair of Tannoy speakers which I still have hooked up to my hi-fi.
ILYOS: Jumping back to earlier in the ‘70s – Ted is a pop act on Alberts before the ‘Gang’ came along. Can you explain how you knew each other and came together? You and Les had played together (and with Malcolm Young) in the Velvet Underground. What was that band like, and how did you end up with that name? (Which was pretty funny especially given that AC/DC would support Lou Reed a few years later).
HK: The name Velvet Underground came about from our first lead singer who, as Australian president of the Rolling Stones fan club, was given these rare albums whenever the Stones came to Australia. He started giving all these Newcastle bands cool names and he wasn’t popular when the real artists started getting known in Oz. Velvet Underground and Ted Mulry were both with the same agency so whenever we did the same gig we backed him. We changed our name to Velvet and a year after that to Pony. I have tapes of Velvet with Malcolm playing lead and the band wasn’t bad. Songs were not that good. Live we played a lot of covers like T Rex, Stones and I bet a lot of people don’t realise that Malcolm could play the intro to "My Sweet Lord" which we did.
The Velvet Underground’s great cover of the classic Great Society/Jefferson Airplane hit "Somebody To Love":
ILYOS: The connections with Malcolm and with Alberts through Ted obviously meant you rubbed shoulders with AC/DC in the early days. Can you tell our readers a bit about that? Any funny – and printable - stories?
HK: I have fond memories of both bands staying at the Freeway Gardens in Melbourne. Mark didn’t stay there and Bon pretty well kept to himself. On nights off most members of both bands would go to the movies together. We saw a Superman movie and Angus wanted us to see Jaws a couple of times. Once was enough but he loved ‘Big Jaws’ as he called it. I remember Bon jumping off a top balcony into the pool and missed the concrete by a couple of inches. We did a lot of gig tagging whereby we would rush off to catch their gig after ours and we would see them arriving halfway through our set after they had finished their gig. There was lot of playing Canasta after gigs. Angus didn’t go out much, just stayed in his room playing his SG.
ILYOS: The AC/DC drum stool was empty for a while there early on – were you ever asked?
HK: I got a call from Mal asking me to play on some tracks on their first album. I was just leaving for a flight to Melbourne to start a tour so had to say no. ...and no I don’t dwell on what could have been, I may have sucked on those tracks.
ILYOS: Were you involved in Ted’s I Won’t Look Back album which seemed to be the point at which Ted started rocking things up a bit?
HK: Les and I had nothing to do with that album except playing the songs live. It's a great album with great songs. Melbourne session players played on it. Phil Manning, Ross Hannaford and drummer of Avalanche.
The title track from Ted’s second pre-TMG 1973 album I Won’t Look Back:
ILYOS: You’ve found some demos that TMG cut before the Alberts recordings. With Ted an Alberts artist, why were you looking elsewhere?
HK: We were not looking for another label, just a studio. We wanted to see what Festival Studios sounded like and we knew the engineer Paul Rich who gave us a free day of recording.
ILYOS: Jumping right back to the beginning, who influenced you as a drummer, who were your favourite artists as a kid, and who were your favourites to play with when you were gigging around in the TMG days?
HK: Obviously Ringo and Charlie Watts. Newcastle drummer Lou Farina, Loppy Morris from a Sydney band Hot Cottage was a huge influence as was Simon Kirke from Free. Artists as a kid were The Beatles (they are why I am in music), Stones, Shadows and Free.
The best band we ever toured with were Sherbet. We did a tour called Around Australia In 80 Days and after our set I never missed a night watching them. There was not a band in the country that could touch them. Unbelievable. I was a big big fan even though they were mates and I shared a room with Daryl.
Herm’s faves Sherbet:
ILYOS: So what does the future hold for TMG? Any recording?
HK: Look I am a realist. I don’t think anyone wants to hear new TMG recordings, especially without our fearless leader. There was talk of doing something with this line-up for gig sales but it would be like work whereas all our other recording sessions were fun. I am looking for Dolby A’s for a 24 track machine as I do have multitrack tapes of our last rock album we did with Ted. We own it and it has never been released so that may be a “new” album. With a song like "She’s Got Me By The Balls" how could we lose.
ILYOS: Finally, you’ve been a producer of note for many years now, especially in country music circles where you’ve had some success with acclaimed singer-songwriter Harmony James. Who else have you worked with and what else have you done?
HK: I have been lucky in that the studio I have which started in 1982 is still working albeit its third location. I was lucky to record acts like Midnight Oil, Divinyls, Slim Dusty, Tim Freedman and heaps of others. I just finished a great album by Michael Rose who has an amazing voice and songs. I’m just working on tracks for a 20 year old Tim Richards who has an amazing voice and songs. I love the word amazing.
Herm’s production client and protégé, the wonderful Harmony James:
ILYOS: Thanks Herm!
HK: My pleasure.
TMG Live (Expanded Edition) is out on Festival Records through Warner Music Australia on May 5.
On the same day, TMG begin another tour – dates as follows:
Friday, 05/05/17, Kingsford, NSW South Sydney Juniors Club
Saturday, 06/05/17, Wentworthville, NSW Wenty Leagues Club
Thursday, 11/05/17, Wallsend, NSW Wallsend Diggers Club
Friday, 12/05/17, Sydney, NSW The Basement
Saturday, 13/05/17, Penrith, NSW Penrith Panthers Evan Theatre
Friday, 19/05/17, Cronulla, NSW Brass Monkey
Saturday, 20/05/17, Cammeray, NSW North Sydney Leagues Club
Friday, 09/06/17, Rooty Hill, NSW Rooty Hill RSL Club
Friday, 16/06/17, Terrey Hills, NSW Terrey Hills Tavern
Saturday, 17/06/17, Castle Hill, NSW Castle Hill RSL Club
Friday, 23/06/17, Towradgi, NSW Waves – Towradgi Beach Hotel
Saturday, 24/06/17, North Gosford, NSW Laycock Street Community Theatre
Friday, 30/06/17, Scarness, QLD Beach House Hotel
Saturday, 01/07/17, Kallangur, QLD Norths Leagues and Services Club
For more details, visit the Ted Mulry Gang website: https://tedmulrygang.com/