Every day in May, to mark NZ Music Month, Gary Steel presents something local from his considerable behind. Personal archive, that is. Today’s surprise item?
First published in the Evening Post, May 7, 1987
Peter Warren’s Rooda – Energy & Vaudeville
ROODA COULD EASILY be a road pirate in a Mad Max movie.
He’s got that macho-gone-slightly-crazed look about him.
All preconceptions aside, today he’s nothing but a good keen bloke, in turns boisterous and serious.
Rooda is Peter Warren, DD Smash drummer and the man behind Feel The Energy, a temporary touring musical grouping which promises to “bring some energy and vaudeville to the New Zealand live scene” this month.
Handpicked by Warren, the cast includes unknown Melbourne guitarist Drew Bowden, who “has lots of energy and writes good songs”, Dance Exponents bassist Dave Gent, who “has the same approach to me… he’s a real rock and roll animal, and we’re very powerful together”, Legionnaires guitarist Andrew Langsford, who “is a phenomenal guitar player, unbelievable”, and unsung special guests.
The show was devised to, “fill in the time and heighten my profile while Dave (Dobbyn) was on holiday,” says Warren.
Rather than just sit about and simmer in Sydney, Warren decided it was time to blow away the rather stale ale blotting up the pop spirit in pubs around the nation.
To this end, the Feel The Energy tour will comprise three distinct sets with costume changes. Warren says they decided to dress up for the show because “then you feel like a real twerp if you don’t get right into it.”
Somewhat surprisingly, it transpires that Warren is attempting to revive something of the spirit of the old-time Maori concert party in this show: “I love the whole era of Maori show bands… and that’s never been done with a modern feel.”
I doubt, however, that the Maori Volcanics ever rendered their interpretations of Van Halen classics.
The Van Halen number comes from the third and final, “heavy” set, which also includes some original songs and a couple of old DD Smash “favourites”.
The first set concentrates on what Warren terms “songs from the ‘myth’ era of New Zealand pop… songs that should have been hits but weren’t.” This means material by bands from the ‘70s and early ‘80s before New Zealand had reached the impetus to break through in the international charts. Then the routine in between goes through a rockabilly romp, “to get everyone partying.”
“There’s one hell of a lot of total movement in the show,” says Warren. “It’s just like a circus coming to town.”
Peter Warren was a member of the ill-fated late-‘70s band Lip Service; a band more renowned for their hedonistic on the road exploits than for any notable musical endeavor. Their one CBS album was a regular bargain bin item.
But for the entire reign of New Zealand’s most consistently successful band – DD Smash – Warren has held the beat down with just the right amount of muscle and technique. While other band members have passed through the ranks with astonishing speed, Warren has remained a constant, along with leader Dave Dobbyn.
With Dave Dobbyn’s swing to soul, Warren’s playing has altered, too. Recently, he even found himself playing sessions with Doug Williams, “a black American guy. I had to throw out the lumberjack sticks and get small ones.”
For a drummer with a penchant for heavy hitting, I wonder what he really thinks of the constant stylistic changes in DD Smash material.
Naturally, he’s ecstatic about everything they’ve ever done. But what about all the people who wanted another dose of Cool Bananas, and never got it? He says that the old songs still get played at concerts, “but we’re always going forward.”
Warren’s also excited about Dave Dobbyn’s current success. “The more successful we get, the better the music will get,” he maintains. “It will get more innovative. Dave and I have the same energy levels.” These energy levels are fuelled by the success and, “when you’ve got that much success, people will listen to the music, whether or not it’s different or unusual.”
After the current Feel The Energy tour, Warren hopes to record a single with The Pretenders’ bassist Malcolm Foster. And after the next DD Smash recording sessions, there is the prospect of major tours throughout Australasia and to the USA at the end of the year. GARY STEEL
Note from the author: I was probably pushed into doing this story by former Evening Post features editor Mark Aston, but I always liked writing about musicians whose work I didn’t particularly like, just for interest’s sake. I’m amazed to notice his love of Maori show bands, decades before they became hip on the back of Chris Bourke’s beautiful coffee table book.
* Don’t forget to check out www.audioculture.co.nz after May 31, where you’ll find a vast repository of NZ music history.