Real Life are back on tour again this December when Boy George returns to Australia for the Encore Tour. Real Life led by David Sterry toured earlier this year with the Totally 80s line up enjoying company with the likes of Berlin, Martika, Stacey Q, Men Without Hats and Wa Wa Nee. David reflects on the eighties, hit singles and making new music during my interview.
Touring with all these 80s acts must still be a huge buzz?
It is a lot of fun and the good thing is that we’re not in the music business any more. We don’t have record companies or worried about chart positions or have managers any more. There’s a lot of pressure when all you have to do is go out and sing your hits which people will love, it is a whole heap of fun and we’re not so precious about ourselves any more. I also get out with some other 80s acts such as Scott Carne from Kids In The Kitchen, Brian Mannix from the X-Men, Dale Ryder from Boom Crash Opera, Sean Kelly from The Models and the odd Chantoozie and we have so much fun, we’re really good mates, love singing our songs and make up dirty lyrics to each other’s songs and sing a whole bunch of other songs together which people love seeing us sing.
Do you get a bit jaded when you look at the music industry now and where it is going?
I guess I’m losing touch with it in that since they have done these three sixty degree deals where record companies take a bit of everything you earn such as your t-shirts and photos. I have lost a bit of touch with that and even though I still sell records via digital media I’m not totally up to date with it any more. I do look at young people and think, oh you poor bastards are you going to make a living out of this. It is very hard and it was always very hard and even tougher now to make a living. There are so many more people making music all the time now because it is cheaper to make music now. I wouldn’t want to be starting out again.
Does it amaze you that what is old is essentially new again?
It’s never really surprised me because whenever you talk to people you discover that songs are a soundtrack to their lives. I’ve got soundtracks to my life as well right from being a ten year old when The Beatles came on the radio, the songs take you to the fifties or seventies. It doesn’t surprise me at all and I’m quite embracive of it. Whenever I meet anybody they tell me a story about their life that includes how my song affected them. I remember in the seventies and my favourite song by Supertramp was called Dreamer and it was the shortest magical song out there. It went for two and a half minutes or something and it was magic.
I wish I could write a song like that and I did in the end. I would love to fall over backwards and tell Supertramp that your song meant so much to me or The Beatles or anyone. It’s the way it is and I’m sure you’ve got someone that is a soundtrack to your life, stories to when you were in school, love loss, happy times, sad times so it doesn’t surprise me one little bit. From our point of view on the stage you unleash all these songs and all these memories on them and there is nothing but smiling faces and they have forgotten their problems for three and a half minutes, it’s great.
When you wrote and recorded Send Me An Angel did you think it was one of those special moments that you needed to bottle up and unleash again when you needed that boost of creativity?
I remember it was writing during Ash Wednesday fires in Melbourne and we were heading down for a gig on Phillip Island. There is this point where you’re travelling down the opposite side of the coast to Lorne in the bay and you can see across the bay that Lorne was on fire. It was quite shocking and we were playing a gig through that. At the time I had on my cassette Walkman was Richard’s first chance at music to Send Me Angel. I thought that this was all very special and by the time I got home to finish the song I knew it was a special song. Whether or not when a song comes out there is a lot of luck involved as well.
Were you prepared for how much your life would change as a result of that song come out and the success that it had?
It is a double edged sword because half of them will love you and the other half will hate you as well because they have a reaction against that kind of music. I was saying to someone else that I have had this conversation where I would be asked when did your life change? We all say on a Sunday night after Count Down. When you’re on Count Down for the first time life was different, people looked at you differently, everyone knew who you are and there was so much power on the Count Down show that just exposed you to everybody. Not just young people, it was mums and dads, grannies so your life changed right from that moment when you’re on Count Down.
Do you still get plenty of satisfaction playing Send Me An Angel today as you did way back when?
Oh yeah, absolutely, always! It is such a privilege I look forward to it every night. We had hits with Catch Me I’m Falling and Face To Face and more hits in the US. I know when it is my turn to go out and do Angel it is my big privilege for the day. I feel privileged doing it, I know the reaction I’m going to get and who wouldn’t want to be standing there having something so personal that they dealt out that the whole world loves. I particularly like it when I’m in a foreign country, a few years ago I was touring America a lot with a Flock of Seagulls and a bunch of eighties people and we went down to Lima, Peru. It’s a dangerous place where they say don’t get in a cab, get kidnapped, blah, blah, blah. We played a club there and did Send Me An Angel, they can’t speak English but sang it so loud at me they lifted the roof, it was amazing. So when that happens it’s geez I’m just a guy from the western suburbs of Melbourne with the people of Lima, Peru and they are singing my song at me.
Billy Corgan says that “I don’t want to be a slave to my past” but most people want to hear the hits and probably aren’t as enthusiastic about the new stuff. Is that what you think?
I am that way to, I am a big New Order fan and The Cure fan. The first two times I saw The Cure they were in this mood where we’re are only playing our b-sides. I was so disappointed and the same when I saw New Order for the first time they didn’t play Blue Monday. Argh! I would never do that, never ever, never ever do that!
Are you working on any new material?
I’m at a happy time in my life and we had a rough time in our music career with record companies. Our manager was Glenn Wheatley and he ended up in jail and our record company was liquidated and it was the worst problem you could ever have. We never made any money back the day and now at a happy time no one expects too much from me but I’m actually making a living. All I do is Real Life and making a nice modest living. I’m happy with it at this time in my life and I’m incredibly happy with it this time in my life that I can do that. I am writing music but I’m not making a big push to try and to promote it or anything. I’m not in to jumping on the band wagon again. People at my age don’t really buy records anyway but I am making music. I could say something embarrassing and say that I wrote the song for the Tiger Airways commercial last year. I have never done anything like that in my life before. I’m not sure if I’d do it again! I’ve bought three new synthesisers which I’m loving and I’m singing, I’ve got five guitars in the room so it is my happy den.
By Rob Lyon
Tour dates featuring Real Life