From winning Triple J’s first National Band Competition in 1989, the Screaming Jets have come a long way. They’ve now headlined countless of their own national tours, played with the likes of the Baby Animals and Def Leppard in Australia and overseas, and out-lasted many a live music venue. And, if our chat with lead singer Dave Gleeson is anything to go by, there’s plenty more to come!
Back when you and Grant [Walmsley, ex-guitarist] performed together all those years ago, did you ever imagine you’d end up where you are now?
No, absolutely not! Grant hasn’t been with the band for a bit now of course, but a friend dug up some old footage the other day of our first interview we did, it was with John Church in Newcastle and he asked what the plan for the band was – Grant just said ‘world domination.’ He was a cocky young bugger but yeah, that was how it all started. And we’re not the biggest band now, but we’ve definitely left our mark.
Things must be a bit different to how they were back then, when you have band members running off to welcome a newborn mid-tour – how does that affect the band?
There’s two things I say to young bands: always wear earplugs, and the first to get married ruins the band. Well, not ruins – but changes the vibe. Once you’re married and go down that path of kids and those responsibilities, your focus shifts and you’re not fully invested in the band. That’s when you’re a young band though, because now things are different: we can tour Thursday to Sunday. I’m always a bit shabby on Monday morning but as long as I’m there to make the kids’ lunches and send them to school, my wife is happy.
It’ll be about the hundredth time you’ve dropped in to Townsville – what is it that keeps you coming back to the regional venues?
Honestly we just love to tour! If promoters didn’t think we’d draw a crowd and venues didn’t think we’d draw drinkers, they wouldn’t keep bringing us in, but they do. There’s also the loyalty there we’ve built up with the fans where they know we’re always out on the road, and even venues know nine out of 10 Jets shows will draw a big crowd.
Do you have any favourite spots to visit while you are in town?
As a band we’ve been just about everywhere, but because we are always touring and moving on to new venues we’ve rarely seen the sights. I visited Magnetic Island once, but that was a long time ago. When you’re young and on fire you get a lot more of those offers, guys asking if you want to hop on their boat and head out to the reef. The Cri used to be a regular spot we’d stop in at, and the one with cow in its name … Mad Cow!
You mentioned the Cri, and last time you were here you played at the Venue, which have both shut their doors – are you seeing a trend of live music venues shutting down across the country?
Yeah, it’s a bit each way: there’s some venues closing down but then you also get new ones opening up. You can blame the pokies or social shifts towards festivals, but even pubs with pokies realise the social drawcard and love for live music – whether they are solos, duos, or touring bands, there is something there and some venues don’t see that and struggle, but there’s others that do it really well.
What made you want to get back on the road so soon after your gigs with the Baby Animals?
This all came about because our latest album Chrome was released last year, so we started a big tour off the back of that. Then we did those shows with the Baby Animals and it just came about we hadn’t hit North Queensland yet, and missed you guys so had to head up and make sure no one missed out on the rock n roll animals.
The Jets have had such a big history already, do you have plans to slow down anytime soon?
Well I’m nearly 50 now, and we’ve still obviously got a bit of hype, so I’ve got a solo album to do, and a bit of stuff with the Angels after this tour, and then yeah, just keep going while we still have that momentum built. I’m lucky having the same agent for the Jets and Angels so the agent knows what both touring schedules are, and knows to lock in that time at home from Monday to Friday.
Chrome received some pretty great feedback when it was released and this tour has been massive so far – has that all got you in the mood to pen another album soon?
Yeah for sure. We’re always working individually on songs, so have still been doing that in the background. After all of the touring is over we’ll probably go in to lay down some demos in September and have something recorded next year, then we have our 30th anniversary in 2019 – so there’s lots in the works, but the public just might not see anything come to fruition for the next 18 months or so. We’re lucky that we’ve all spent so much time in and have so much experience in the industry, and can call it a career.
What do you think you’d do for a career if it wasn’t in a band?
I actually wanted to be a copper! My older brother was a cop, so was always interested in following his footsteps. Obviously if I went down that road now, I’d probably be in jail!
Catch the Screaming Jets‘ Chrome-O-Zone Tour stopping in at the Dalrymple Hotel on Friday, 4 August. Grab your tickets here.