Punk from Down Under too often gets short shrift in chronicles from the 1970s. One of the punkest of the original Aussie garage bands was The Victims, comprised of three iconoclastic teens from the isolated city of Perth in western Australia who cured their disaffection with the status quo by playing rock & roll that still sizzles. One of those Victims, Dave Faulkner, would go on to form the considerably more successful Hoodoo Gurus. So smitten was Faulkner with those original Victims tracks—which have just been reissued—he has re-formed the group, which will be touring along with the Gurus this year. Eric Davidson talked with Faulkner for PKM.
While spending the last 30 years releasing loads of amazing modern bands who are often highly influenced by the greasiest of the original 1970s punk rock explosion, In the Red Records has recently jumped skull-first into reissuing some amazing, and amazingly rare artifacts from that era. The speedy thug-chug of the Dum Dum Boys (New Zealand, 1981); the churning burn of Revenge (UK, 1978); and maybe most exciting of all, a compilation of all known recordings from The Victims.
Three teenage snots who somehow found the punk zeitgeist in western Australia in 1977, by the next year they put out two of the best early, overseas punk rock 7-inches. Floating around want lists and getting incrementally bootlegged over the years, In the Red officially brings together those two records, plus nine previously unheard demos from the same time that blast with just as much sizzling Aussie riff-slash and beyond-the-Outback boredom.
Songs like “Open Your Eyes” and “I Understand” have the slicing guitar that hints at the chiming garage rock of the Hoodoo Gurus – the classic garage band Victims’ leader, Dave Faulkner, would form in the early ‘80s. The other tunes rattle-rouse with the absolute best of the early Aussie underground that still informs the nastiest punk of today.
And seemingly even informs the Victims themselves, as they have recently reconvened (with a new bass player) to release a brand new four-song EP, Horror Smash (In the Red), of spastic trash that feels like it came from around those same original 12 months.
Amid all the horrors that Australia is going through right now, and the fact that both the Victims and Hoodoo Gurus are planning tours in 2020, Dave Faulkner was gracious enough to give us some time for a talk.
Yes, The Victims grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.
PKM: Give me the basic tale of how The Victims came together?
Dave Faulkner: James Baker and I met at The Cheap Nasties first gig in mid-1977 (May, I think), at The Rivervale Hotel. I grew up in Rivervale actually. I had been at high school with Neil Fernandes, the Nasties’ main guitarist, and I became friends with Ken Seymour after I got to know his sister during my one failed year of university (1975). Ken introduced me to Kim Salmon (I think they were at high school together – or perhaps art school). Early on, in ’76. I was actually a member of The Cheap Nasties for a grand total of three rehearsals. I played keyboards because I hadn’t taught myself guitar yet (that didn’t happen until after I quit the band).
When I met him, James had been rehearsing in a band called The Geeks, and David Cardwell (aka Rudolph V.) was that band’s bass player. On the spot, James decided he was going to quit The Geeks and that he and I should form a band instead. Cheekily, he decided to lure Rudolph away too.
I don’t remember our first practice, but it was in a squalid rental house that we took over in a light-industrial area on the edge of the city. We loved it because the area was deserted at night – if a little spooky and down-at-heel – so we could make as much noise as we wanted because the nearest housing was way on the other side of a busy railway line. Yes, The Victims grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. Our first gig was in Victim Manor, as we christened it, and it was a spectacular success, with all sorts of odd people turning up through word of mouth, many of them becoming the nucleus of the Perth punk scene that followed in its wake. When the party was over, the bare floor boards were a carpet of broken glass – with more glass per square inch than wood, but no one got hurt – and the windows remained intact. It was very civilized barbaric behavior.
PKM: What kind of neighborhood did the Victims members grow up in?
Dave Faulkner: We were all from the ‘burbs, though in Australia “suburbs” doesn’t mean a place near the edge of town with lots of greenery. Our suburbs refer to built-up neighborhoods. James and I came from working-class neighborhoods, though our families weren’t poverty-stricken. Nice middle class boys. I think Rudolph’s parents were educated, one may have been a doctor or a university professor, or perhaps they both were, but I’m not exactly sure. At the time, I was 19, James was 21, and Rudolph was 18, I believe.
PKM: How often did you actually go into the Outback? I realize I may sound painfully naive with questions about the Outback, but did people actually go there on vacation, or what have you?
Dave Faulkner: I’ve played all over Australia in the Hoodoo Gurus, including towns that could be described as being in the Outback, but The Victims never played anywhere outside of Perth. We were lucky to get the gigs that we did have, which were all venues that we developed, having never booked bands before. Regular venues would have nothing to do with us and we didn’t want to have anything to do with them either. We just wanted to have our own scene with our own like-minded friends. The Victims had no illusions that a general Perth audience at that time would “get” what we were doing. We just played because we were excited by punk music, and we used it to express our disaffection with the place we lived, which was very conservative and suspicious of anyone who questioned its values or dared to stand out.
PKM: It’s apparent how fucking far Perth really is from what seems to be the most active cities in Australia, on the east coast. So what was it like trying to start up a band, as far as finding practice spaces, places to play, etc.?
Indonesia is closer to Perth than Sydney.
Dave Faulkner: Perth is probably the most remote city in the developed world. The nearest major city is Adelaide, 1,500 miles away across a desert, while to our west lies Africa or India. Indonesia is closer to Perth than Sydney. Being so cut off from the outside world led to Perth being a very insular place. They didn’t like the abrasiveness of punk music back then, nor the outrageousness of punk fashion. We felt marooned in a cultural desert, with all the exciting music in the world taking place far away. Forming our own bands and playing for each other in our own venues provided an escape from that dreary reality.
PKM: Did you have any good record stores or radio stations where you found out about new bands from Australia or other countries? Or was it mostly magazines where you got your music news?
Dave Faulkner: We read all the British music papers and magazines religiously. That’s where we first heard reports of the CBGB scene and The Ramones in particular before anyone knew there were any records. Reading about The Ramones, they sounded like the most ferocious band on earth. So when I finally heard their first album in early ’76 (ordered on import through one of the hipper record shops in town), I was a bit taken aback by their poppy melodies. It took me a couple of listens to catch up to what they were doing, but of course I fell completely in love with the band. They are still one of my favorite artists of all time, up there with anyone you can name. It was only when I heard The Clash and The Sex Pistols later that I hear more of the anger that I had expected from punk music from the descriptions I’d read beforehand.
When the party was over, the bare floor boards were a carpet of broken glass – with more glass per square inch than wood, but no one got hurt – and the windows remained intact. It was very civilized barbaric behavior.
PKM: Television seems to play a hefty role in the Victims universe. I believe I read a Hoodoo Gurus interview years ago where you explained how popular American TV shows would come over to Australia like five years later, so your references might’ve seemed a little behind, ha. So tell us in general about the Victims television habits, and how they formed your views?
Dave Faulkner: Some TV shows took a couple of years to reach Perth because we only had two commercial networks and the government station – think BBC / PBS. So there just weren’t enough stations to broadcast all the U.S. sitcoms being made. The other important factor is that the Australian government deliberately held back on introducing color television until the mid-70s, to save the networks having to buy all new equipment. Consequently, all the old black and white sitcoms still found a home on Aussie TV next to the more recent productions, which again were only seen in black and white. We were watching re-runs of I Love Lucy and McHale’s Navy, even The Honeymooners in early primetime long after they’d disappeared onto the late, late, late show in their country of origin.
We also saw a lot of wonderful British sitcoms that you never had, as well as our own home-grown shows. For some strange reason, the networks all had their evening news bulletins at different times, beginning at 5 p.m., and there were sitcoms on the other channels as counter programming during each. By channel switching, I was able to watch sitcoms, mostly reruns, from 3 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. every weekday. That was TV heaven for a kid looking for mindless escapism.
PKM: What were some of your favorite TV shows back then?
Dave Faulkner: Then and now, Lost In Space, The Addams Family, Green Acres and F Troop. I could go on and on, but those will do for now. I have every episode of Lost In Space on DVD, and I still watch it regularly. Lost In Space is particularly good when you have a hangover.
PKM: I always wondered, when you mention Dinah Shore in the Victims’ classic, “Television Addict,” did you originally see when Iggy was on that show?
Dave Faulkner: Of course we watched Iggy on Dinah, with David Bowie on keyboards. We also looked out for The Standells on The Munsters, The Seeds on The Mothers-In-Law, and The Wellingtons on Gilligan’s Island, another favorite show).
PKM: When did cable TV come to Perth? I remember growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, and how first we had these small, single pay stations. Orson Welles did a commercial for one of them. It was one of his last paid gigs.
Dave Faulkner: Cable TV arrived in Australia not long before the internet, so it was quite late compared to the U.S. I left Perth long before that happened.
PKM: One thing I love about “Television Addict” is that Aussie bands, like most of my favorite American punk bands, seem to have an innate sense of humor. But by the end of “Television Addict,” there is real desperate screaming there, like, seriously, “Fuck off! I love TV!” Do you know what I mean? I guess I mean, a sense of humor is sometimes looked down upon in punk, once hardcore kind of made everything so serious. But you guys proved you can have both a laugh and a punch at the same time.
Dave Faulkner: Well, “Television Addict” was inspired by a real-life event, the famous I’m-a-murderer-because-I-saw-it-on-Kojak defense that Ronnie Zamora’s attorneys tried to argue in 1977. As dedicated fans of television, we in The Victims were indignant that our beloved medium’s reputation was being besmirched. “Television Addict” was our musical evidence to support the prosecution. Postscript: Ronnie Zamora was convicted so the “Kojak defense” ploy failed.
PKM: I think sometimes people forget how close the “punk rock revolution” was to 1960s garage rock bands. Did you know any of the members of some of the famed Aussie ’60s bands, like the Missing Links, Easybeats,, etc.? Or were there older musicians around Perth who influenced you? Any cool, forgotten 1960s Perth bands we should know about?
Dave Faulkner: No, I was too young to have met any of those people, though I did have some awareness of them, having grown up with them on the radio and television. They’re not from Perth, but you should check out The Purple Hearts. The most important Australian ’60s punk band is The Loved Ones. They made one absolutely brilliant album in 1967, Magic Box, and then broke up. They were jazz and blues afficionados who went rock and captured something really unique – a bit like Spirit in the U.S, one of the most underrated bands of all time.
The Loved Ones-“Loved One”, 1966, on the Australia’s The Go!! Show:
PKM: So did any sort of punk scene develop in Perth, that The Victims could be a part of? If there was live music around in bars, what was it like?
Dave Faulkner: The Perth scene was pretty much cover bands everywhere, with the only alternative music scene being a healthy blues scene. They were the “cool” people. No one was writing their own songs, and rock ’n’ roll was non-existent. Discos were huge too, of course.
PKM: I know the Scientists (post-Cheap Nasties) formed in Perth – anything to say about them, a good story of seeing them early on? And any other bands that you played with that gave you some hope for your town?
Dave Faulkner: The Scientists formed long after The Victims broke up, but they were comprised of people from the punk scene. James Baker, The Victims’ drummer, was one of the founding members of The Scientists, and his lyrical sensibility informed a lot of their early material, just as he had done with ours.
PKM: Is there a kind of “big show” that might’ve happened in Perth in those early days that made you think “something was happening,” as far as new music coming?
Dave Faulkner: Nah, nothing was happening. Just get the hell out as soon as you can was our attitude at the time. Looking back, our little punk scene was the birth of a whole lot of amazing bands from Perth, beginning with The Triffids – a bunch of high schoolers who loved The Victims – and leading up to Tame Impala. They all followed their own musical compass, but until our feisty little punk scene, no one had ever thought they could write their own songs and completely ignore, or bypass, the world of cover bands. Venues that we pioneered became the home of many independent, original bands. We didn’t take over the mainstream, but we blazed a trail for a viable alternative.
PKM: So when the idea of recording came around, how did you approach that? Did you know of any studios, or did someone have an 8-track in a basement, did you know other bands who had recorded and asked them…?
Dave Faulkner: We had attempted to record a demo early on and, frankly, that turned out pretty poorly. Those songs comprise side two of the new Victims album on In The Red. (Ed. note – those songs are killer!)
We had set up in someone’s rented house and recorded onto a ¼-inch, two-track tape machine. Listening to it now, it sounds a hell of a lot better than we thought it did at the time, but we were far from satisfied. One of our fans, a guy named Tony, came from a wealthy family, though not super-rich, and his parents gave him some money to fund the recording of “Television Addict.” It was simply a passion project for him and it cost around $1,500 all up, I believe, including pressing costs. “Television Addict” sold well enough that we were able to reinvest the money into recording of The Victims E.P. I don’t think Tony ever got a penny back from those records, and he never sought it. It was a classic white knight situation.
PKM: Any memories about recording those two original records?
Dave Faulkner: We just went in and banged them out as best we could in the limited time we had. We had a lot of live experience by that time, so we were completely undaunted by being in the studio. We just played the songs with the same spirit we tried to convey on stage. There was a lot of luck involved, but we were also very in tune with ourselves. For example, the solo on “Disco Junkies” was always a rambling “Sister Ray”-ish kinda thing, and I never knew what I was going to play. I still don’t, but I knew I wanted to double-track the guitars at some point in the solo to capture the chaotic feeling of how the song was live. More noise must be good, right? I listened to the live take and kinda figured out where I’d join in and try to “bounce off” the feeling of what I’d already done as I played along. There was no real planning, but it somehow sounds really “considered” for something that was a complete accident. It sounds perfect to me.
PKM: What was the plan on just getting them out there? I guess you just figured you’d sell them at gigs, or was there a distributor you heard about from other bands?
Dave Faulkner: No distribution, but Tony and a couple of our mates – one of whom ran a fanzine, Remote Control – took a drive over to Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, and they got the various punk-friendly record shops to buy some stock. The word spread, and more sales followed from that. There was no distribution network to speak of in those days. We were complete outsiders in every aspect of the music industry.
PKM: There’s your great song, “Perth is a Culture Shock” – you’ve mentioned wanting to get the hell out of there. Can I assume the other members usually fell in line with your lyrical sentiments?
Dave Faulkner: James wrote the lyrics for “Culture Shock,” but I completely agreed with the sentiment. We felt like prisoners in Perth, and every one of us wanted to escape.
PKM: Were you guys aware of the scenes going on in Sydney and Brisbane?
Dave Faulkner: We were. I loved The Saints’ first album, and I really liked their second one too. I wasn’t as big a fan of Radios Appear by Radio Birdman, though I quite liked some of it. Birdman were one of those bands you really had to see live, and being in Perth, I missed out on that. It’s always difficult to capture rock’n’roll properly in a recording studio. We really lucked out with “Television Addict.” From the recording to the mastering, the planets just seemed to align to make a perfect record. My only regret is that we hadn’t made an entire album at that time. The sound of that single is magic.
PKM: Agreed! Any memories of shows from that era of bands from other Aussie towns coming through?
Dave Faulkner: We never saw anyone from anywhere else play. They couldn’t afford to come to Perth. We were isolated from the rest of Australia, and from the rest of the world. Nothing else we could do but make it up for ourselves.
PKM: A couple of classic, early Aussie punk bands to ask about; any memories of these?:
– The Cheap Nasties
– The Fun Things?
– The Chosen Few?
– The News?
Dave Faulkner: The only one of those I can comment on properly is The Cheap Nasties. I was actually a member of The Nasties for a few early rehearsals, as I said before. We were all friends and fans of each other. There were many other bands in our little punk scene: some great, some terrible, but we all supported each other. The Cheap Nasties changed their name to The Manikins later, and I even joined them for a while in 1980, just before moving to Sydney and forming the Hoodoo Gurus.
PKM: Does the fact that I call them “classic” seem strange to you? Like, no one gave a shit back then!
Dave Faulkner: It is amusing. We know that our legacy has grown over the years, and I don’t think it’s undeserved. Unwittingly, we were blazing a trail in the musical wilderness that was Perth back then, but we had no inkling that anyone would ever have any idea that we existed. We just had to do something to capture the excitement we felt about punk, as well as express the antipathy we felt at being marooned in our cultural backwater.
PKM: When bands like the Saints, Birthday Party, and Radio Birdman were heading to England more often, even moving there, what did you think of that?
Dave Faulkner: If I thought anything it was probably, “Good luck to ‘em.” The Birthday Party formed after The Victims had broken up. We only existed for about seven or eight months.
PKM: What did you think of that Radio Birdman documentary, Descent into the Maelstrom? And did it basically adequately explain the situation for fledgling punk bands in Australia at the time?
Dave Faulkner: I only caught up with that Birdman documentary recently, and I was a bit disappointed by it. As I said, I never saw them play at the time so I don’t really know how accurately it captured what was going on around them. The film is factually correct, of course, but I felt that it failed to give a sense of how exciting Radio Birdman really were in concert because, by all accounts, they were incredible. The people the filmmakers interviewed tried to describe their experience seeing them, but I never felt anything myself when I was watching. Well, other than dismay at how horrible relations were between the various members and how things went wrong for the band quite quickly. Perhaps there just wasn’t enough good archival material of the band performing to convey that energy? I don’t know, I found it dispiriting.
Unwittingly, we were blazing a trail in the musical wilderness that was Perth back then, but we had no inkling that anyone would ever have any idea that we existed. We just had to do something to capture the excitement we felt about punk, as well as express the antipathy we felt at being marooned in our cultural backwater.
PKM: The director told me that when they approached ABC Australia – I believe that was the TV network – that they charged $1,000 per minute for use of old footage! So his limited budget didn’t allow for as much live footage as he would’ve liked to use. Do you think there is footage of the Victims sitting on some TV station shelf somewhere?
Dave Faulkner: No, there’s only that one single camera recording of us at Hernando’s Hideaway.
PKM: What led to the demise of The Victims? Was a desire to leave Perth part of the downfall of the band?
Dave Faulkner: Personal enmity sowed the seeds of the band’s destruction – two of us didn’t like one of us. But another factor was our growing disenchantment with a feeling of conformity in punk. Punk clothing had become a kind of uniform, and individual outrageousness had turned into groupthink. We never wanted to enlist in the “punk army”.
PKM: When did you leave Perth, where did you land?
Dave Faulkner: I left Perth to travel for eight months in early 1979. After six weeks in London, I went to New York City where I mostly stayed for the next five months, before going back to London and then heading home to Perth. Completely broke but with a huge smile on my face and memories to last a lifetime, as well as the inspiration for my music forever after.
PKM: How / where did you meet Brad Shepherd; and how did the Hoodoo Gurus form?
Dave Faulkner: I saw Brad performing with The Hitmen, a kind of spin-off of the defunct Radio Birdman. Chris Masuak, one of the guitarists from Radio Birdman had started The Hitmen after that band ended, along with Birdman’s occasional MC, Johnny Kannis, on vocals. Brad didn’t make much of an impression on me in The Hitmen because I didn’t like the band much, and Masuak pretty much hogged the limelight, guitar-wise. It wasn’t until I saw Brad performing with Clyde Bramley in a casual side-project, Super K, that I noticed how diverse Brad’s guitar playing was. Super K was a bubblegum covers band – the name itself is a tribute to the Kasenetz-Katz production team. And like Brad and Clyde, I’m a huge fan of ‘60s/‘70s bubblegum music as well.
PKM: So I’ll assume you left The Victims in your past, moved on, had success with Hoodoo Gurus, etc… When did you begin to notice the kind of rediscovery of The Victims and that whole tier of “lost” late ’70s punk bands, ala the Killed By Death and Murder Punk compilations, etc.?
Dave Faulkner: I’m not sure I ever “left” The Victims in my past, the band simply was in my past, and now I was doing new music with new people. I still had great affection for the band and what we did together. James Baker was the drummer in the Hoodoo Gurus for the first few years, so the DNA of The Victims was a very strong component of the Hoodoo Gurus musical gene pool. I have always believed that my musical sensibility was permanently altered by punk.
As far as noticing The Victims legend growing, I guess that was an incremental thing. Hearing about the rising prices for our records as well as being bootlegged countless times showed me that the band had posthumously become acknowledged as an important bit of punk history. As far as Australian punk history goes, The Saints and Radio Birdman are on the top rung, and The Victims are pretty much the next most important band people talk about. I’m very proud of that. At the same time, I’m bemused. We didn’t do anything for posterity, we just did it to entertain ourselves and to rebel against the stultifying culture that surrounded us at the time.
PKM: How did the idea of getting The Victims together again happen? How did Ray Ahn get involved?
Dave Faulkner: James had always been suggesting The Victims play some shows, and I had always resisted the idea until he suggested Ray Ahn play bass. I think The Hard-Ons are one of the most important bands to have ever come out of Australia, and have never received the respect they deserve at home. Apart from being a great bass guitarist and a total legend of a human being, Ray is a huge Victims fan. He was a little kid in the ‘burbs of Sydney when the band was together in far-off Perth, so he only discovered our music many years later when he was haunting indie record shops while he was at high school. He even made his own Victims T-shirt to wear when he was 15. Ray was the obvious choice to be our bass player when we reformed.
PKM: The new EP on In the Red, how / when did you record that one?
Dave Faulkner: It had always bothered me that some great Victims songs were never recorded properly back in the day. We had versions on what we call the “bad demo” – the side two of the In the Red album that just came out – but I desperately wanted to hear some of those songs recorded properly. So when we played two shows in Perth 18 months ago I booked a studio, and out of that came the Horror Smash E.P.
There are two other songs left over from those sessions that are fully mixed and ready to go, and we may look at releasing those some time in the future. Keeping the E.P. to four songs just seemed right at the time. I’m really happy with it and even happier that other people are digging it. We knew that there was a big risk in trying to pick up where we left off so many years ago. We may be older, but the three of us play pretty fiercely when we get together.
PKM: What are The Victims’ plan since this new EP? And do the Hoodoo Gurus have any plans upcoming for 2020?
Dave Faulkner: For both bands, the plan is to do some shows. The Hoodoo Gurus are touring the U.S. in late October/early November but we’re hoping to get The Victims over for a few shows in July, principally on the West Coast at his stage. Europe is something I would love to see happen as well (for both bands) but we’ll need to get some healthy gig offers for us to get there. Have guitar, will travel.
PKM: As we all learn as we grow up, the things that obviously pissed us off and bored the shit out of us in our hometowns, later on we can see how they oddly formed who we were. Do you have a begrudging respect for Perth now? Do you ever go back there much?
Dave Faulkner: I’m always in Perth. All of my family is still based there, though I have cousins all over the country. The world has changed since The Victims were around, and Perth has changed too. There have been many important artists that began their careers in Perth, many of whom still use the city as their base. Kevin Parker (Tame Impala) and Jake Webb (Methyl Ethel) are just two, but there are many more. Perth is still isolated physically from the rest of the world. That won’t change, and there is still a whiff of provincialism and island-mentality about the place.
But really, I enjoy coming here and know that in all likelihood I will probably end up moving back here one day. Regardless of my love-hate relationship with Perth – and the balance between each of those polarities at different times of my life – I’ve always had an abiding love of my home state, Western Australia. It is a truly magnificent place containing many of my favorite spots on earth. The Kimberley region alone is mind blowing. Wild and beautiful.