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Hoodoo Gurus Talk 'Purity Of Essence'

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Hoodoo Gurus Talk 'Purity Of Essence'

Hoodoo Gurus Talk 'Purity Of Essence'

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(Soundbite of song)

Mr. HANK WILLIAMS JR. (Musician): (Singing) So get ready. Are you ready for some football?


That, as any fan of American professional football could tell you, is the theme song for "Monday Night Football," as performed by country music icon Hank Williams, Jr.

In Australia, fans of one of that country's most popular sports, Rugby League Football, get the same surge of energy when they hear this:

(Soundbite of song)

HOODOO GURUS: (Singing) That's my team. That's my team. And I'm letting everyone know. That's my, that's my, that's my, that's my team. That's my, that's my, that's my, that's my team...

ROBERTS: This song has beckoned many an Aussie to the television to watch Australia's national rugby league games. It's called "That's My Team" and it's by the band the Hoodoo Gurus. The Hoodoo Gurus are rock and roll legends in Australia. The band formed in Sydney in the early '80s and in their nearly 30-year career they've earned numerous gold and platinum albums in their native land.

In 2007, the band was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association's Hall of Fame and took their place alongside AC/DC, the Bee Gees, INXS and Nick Cave. The Hoodoo Gurus have a new CD, their first in six years. It's called "Purity of Essence." And two members of the band are here with us. Dave Faulkner is the singer and rhythm guitarist. Brad Shepherd is the lead guitarist. They're in our studios in New York. Guys, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. DAVE FAULKNER (Singer, Rhythm Guitarist, Hoodoo Gurus): OK.

Mr. BRAD SHEPHERD (Lead Guitarist, Hoodoo Gurus): Blackmail corner there with "That's My Team." You sprung that on us.

ROBERTS: Well, you know, we've got to get your energy up for the interview.

Mr. FAULKNER: It does actually. We were huge rugby league fans and it was so funny when they got us to do that. So, it ran for five years and just recently it stopped. But, yeah, it's funny hearing that version. It's been one of our most famous songs, "What's My Scene" and, you know, they turned it around to that.

ROBERTS: Your new CD is called "Purity of Essence." Where did that title come from, by the way?

Mr. FAULKNER: It's from "Dr. Strangelove or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb, the Stanley Kubrick film. It was the obsession of the main protagonist who causes World War III. He's a bit worried about his manhood being zapped by the commies. At least the essence is being polluted.

ROBERTS: Well, there's now sort of a legend that half the songs were written during a single rehearsal session. Was it just sort of stars and moons aligning and musical magic happening in one place?

Mr. FAULKNER: It definitely was, but it wasn't actually that were written. We hadn't ever played in with the band before, so presenting the songs you never know if it's going to knit together and sound coherent or whether it just lies there, you know, and kind of like, OK, that one wasn't any good, we'll go to the next one. This particular day, every single thing we tried seemed to just lock into place and everyone was on the same wavelength.

Mr. SHEPHERD: And the parts on the arrangements that we came up with on the spot in that rehearsal room are, in essence, what you hear on the album.

ROBERTS: Wow. Have you ever had a day like that? I mean...

Mr. SHEPHERD: No. I mean, you always wish that that's the way it's going to occur and you always try your best but the planets aligned on this particular day.

ROBERTS: I want to play the first song on the album. It's called "Crackin' Up."

(Soundbite of song, "Crackin' Up")

HOODOO GURUS: (Singing) Ever since this troubled land began, every woman and man, trying to find some purpose in their lives, some way to survive. And I'm the same. I'm not ashamed. Riddle's my middle name. I'm not a saint. I've got no complaints. There's a lot of worse things I ain't. I'm cracking up...

Mr. FAULKNER: I was in the middle of this very deep sleep and, you know, you kind of wake up and you remember your dreams when you wake up during them. Well, this one came to me whole in the dream, and when I realized that it wasn't actually something I was hearing in the real world, it was in my head. I had to quickly gather my thoughts and find a recorder and put it down, all the melodies that were there, before I lost anything and got them confused.

ROBERTS: So, do you keep a guitar by your bed? I mean, how do you make sure you don't lose that between waking and writing it down?

Mr. FAULKNER: I've had terrible times before where I have lost things. And, no, I just had to find a recorder. And I had a houseguest staying with me and I said, look, don't talk to me 'cause I'm - I've got to get this thing down the next couple of minutes or else they'll be gone.

ROBERTS: There's definitely songs on "Purity of Essence" that have a different sound. I mean, you know, there's "I Hope You're Happy" that's got that big sound and a backup choir going.

(Soundbite of song, "I Hope You're Happy")

HOODOO GURUS: (Singing) Well, I make you think. I hope I make you happy (make you happy). I hope you make (feel good) feel good. Hope it makes you happy (make you happy). And then you better (knock on wood). I hope you make you happy (make you happy). Well, I hope it feels good. Hope it makes you happy (makes you happy). And then you better (knock on wood). I want you to (knock on wood). Just let me be (understood). I wanna be (understood). Better get it, mister...

ROBERTS: Where does that come from?

Mr. FAULKNER: I listen to a lot of R&B and soul and that was kind of my attempt to kind of get a bit of that flavor in there. And some raunchy female backing vocals on that stuff with the choir, the signatures. I kind of just want to chuck that in there. They kind of went even more obviously for the direction I was referring to.

(Soundbite of song, "I Hope You're Happy")

HOODOO GURUS: (Singing) Witnesses, witnesses(ph)...

Mr. FAULKNER: Actually, I guess that's more gospel, isn't it, rather than soul or R&B. It's a bit more gospel flavor. But, yeah, it's, you know, it's all about faith 'cause inspired those genres. So, yeah, we just wanted to bring that aspect down a little bit.

ROBERTS: I'm speaking with Dave Faulkner and Brad Shepherd of the band the Hoodoo Gurus. Their new CD is called "Purity of Essence."

In 1997, you guys announced you were breaking up. Dave Faulkner, you said you were written out. What do you mean by that?

Mr. FAULKNER: What it was, the previous record we had made I just loved. It was an album called "Blue Cave." And I felt that I didn't want to make a record that I didn't like as much as that album. So, I just thought let's just stop while we're ahead and, you know, there's also the certain sort of prejudice in the industry against older artists. You know, it's just a fact of life that it's a young person's game as far as getting attention and radio and things like that.

It just seemed like a natural thing to do, just to quit while we were at the top of their game. And it was a good thing to do, actually, at the time. But, you know, unfortunately, the Hoodoo Gurus, that beast that lurked within the four of us wasn't so easily conquered.

(Soundbite of song, "Burnt Orange")

HOODOO GURUS: (Singing) When I was 17, my (unintelligible) gasoline. No matter where I turned, I got my (unintelligible) returned. I wouldn't go back there if I could. I wouldn't go back there if I could...

ROBERTS: You mentioned that rock is a young man's game. But if you listen to a song like "Burnt Orange" on the new CD, it doesn't seem like you have a lot of regrets about no longer being young men.

(Soundbite of song, "Burnt Orange")

HOODOO GURUS: (Singing) I wouldn't go back there if I could. I wouldn't go back there if I could...

Mr. FAULKNER: You know, like most people, I think, as you get older you start to feel a little more in control of your, you know, turbulent emotions and, you know, try to make good sense out of all the things that you've gone through in your past. And, yeah, I don't want to go through those dramas again. You know, they were horrible.

ROBERTS: And, Brad Shepherd, you know, the music industry has changed so much since you all started playing together. You've weathered so many different musical trends. Are there advantages to being veterans in this industry, not just not being sort of young and callow anymore?

Mr. SHEPHERD: Oh, I don't care.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SHEPHERD: I've really, I've ceased paying attention actually, you know? I just focus on what we do. And to hell with everybody else, frankly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SHEPHERD: Can I say that?

(Soundbite of music)

ROBERTS: I don't think it's just American rock you can hear influencing your sound; you listen to "Somebody Take Me Home," that's American country.

Mr. FAULKNER: Yeah, that's one that Brad started. I took a long time to get into country. It actually took Elvis' Sun sessions to kind of bridge the gap between rock and roll and country for me. And I'm a huge fan now. And this is just our attempt to write a jukebox, barroom tearjerker, I guess.

(Soundbite of song, "Somebody Take Me Home")

HOODOO GURUS: (Singing) Ain't somebody gonna take me home tonight? Get me out of here. Somebody better take me home tonight. This old bar stool is always glad to see me. The whiskey bottle waits to say hello.

ROBERTS: Is that fun for you, the sort of working with language and playing around with message? I'm thinking of a song like "What's In It for Me."

Mr. FAULKNER: I've always had a bit of a tongue-in-cheek attitude in some of my lyrics, which it tends to make me come across a bit as a lightweight to some people. But, you know, this is just me having fun with the idea of someone who's a complete tightwad and this big grudge, giving a penny to a new sort of charity. But I think from their point of view I kind of make it seem quite an appealing attitude to have in a song.

(Soundbite of song, "What's In It for Me")

HOODOO GURUS: (Singing) Let me say what's in it for me? Can you talk? Don't give nothing free. Could you start, 'cause you got to be, 'cause I'm not, not a (unintelligible).

ROBERTS: I also like that little Sympathy for the Devil, woo-woo, in the back there.

Mr. FAULKNER: That's right. We're really proud of that song. You know, we've always been in like a hard rocking band but it's been kind of the more punky sort of '70s energy that sort of forms out our sort of furious bluster. And this particular one, we got a bit more of that sort of role in there, that Stones-y, Black Crowes thing. To me, it's one of the most rock and roll things we've ever done.

(Soundbite of song, "What's In It for Me")

HOODOO GURUS: (Singing) What's in it for me? What's in it for me? For me.

ROBERTS: Brad Shepherd, you know, the band's been around a long time, nearly 30 years. You've had the same lineup of guys for over 20 years. What do you think is the secret to keeping the same foursome together?

Mr. SHEPHERD: It's just going to sound like rubbish. Honestly, I just think it's because we're music fans. It's really simple. You know, I personally feel like an archaeologist or something. You know, you just keep digging and you never get to the bottom. There's always new music to turn you on.

ROBERTS: Dave Faulkner and Brad Shepherd of the band Hoodoo Gurus. Thank you guys so much for coming in.

Mr. FAULKNER: Thank you very much.

Mr. SHEPHERD: Thanks, Rebecca. Much appreciated.

(Soundbite of music)

ROBERTS: The Hoodoo Gurus' new release is called "Purity of Essence." You can hear more of their music at

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Liane Hansen will be back next week. I'm Rebecca Roberts.

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