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60 Seconds with Mental As Anything

Exclusive Interview by Karen Beishuizen

Reg and Pete are the two founding members of Mental As Anything who is best known for their huge 1985 hit “Live It Up”. The band is still touring. Check them out Live!

KB: Were you always interested in music as a child?

Reg: I enjoyed listening to songs on the radio but did not play an instrument until I was 12 when I had 3 months of piano lessons, and at the age of 15 I got my first acoustic guitar.

Pete: We had music in our house growing up, with the radio and mum and dad’s records which tended towards musicals, Julie Andrews, Harry Secombe, Vera Lynn and other popular singers of the day. Songs on the radio from the Top 40 of the 60’s made a big impression.

KB: When did you decide to become a singer and musician?

Reg: I joined my first band when I was 16 but did not start singing in public or writing songs until I formed the Mentals in 1976.

Pete: I started playing guitar around the age of 13 or 14. I caught the bug and by 16 I wasn’t taking much interest in schoolwork. All I wanted to do was keep playing music.

KB: Live It Up was a huge hit in Europe in 1985. I love the song. Who wrote it and what is it about?

Reg: Greedy Smith wrote the song, and it is about a boy cheering up his gloomy new girlfriend.

Pete: Greedy Smith wrote Live It Up. It’s a basic boy taking an interest in a sad girl lyric.

KB: Besides music you are also in visual art and design and create your own album covers. Where does the passion come from and what is your favorite design?

Reg: I’ve been keen on art since drawing obsessively as a child. Music and art are closely related creative activities and come from the same part of the brain, although the forms are somewhat different. One of my favourite designs is a Mambo poster called Australian Jesus at the football.

Pete: I paint and exhibit. I’m not so involved in the graphic art side of things though I did a couple of things for the Mentals.

KB: If you were to make an album with 7 of your favorite songs (No Mental As Anything): What would you pick and why?

Reg: 1. Waterloo Sunset by the Kinks – one of the greatest ever pop songs. 2. Sitting In The Rain by The Underdogs Blues Band – a great recording of John Mayall song by an Auckland band I followed as a teenager. 3. Going Up The Country by Canned Heat. A great version of an old song by Henry Thomas that was recorded almost a hundred years ago. 4. Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones. Another great pop song with a memorable sitar riff by Brian Jones. 5. Lay Down Your Weary Tune by Bob Dylan. An early Dylan tune about the strength and joy of guitar music. 6. Can’t Be Satisfied by Muddy Waters. A melodic and memorable guitar part also well covered by the Rolling Stones. 7. Red Rooster by Willy Dixon. Also, memorable covers by the Stones (with Brian Jones playing slide guitar) and Howlin ‘Wolf.

Pete: 1. Debris by the Faces. Written and sung by the great Ronnie Lane, a beautiful resonant song about his father played by a band at the top of their game. 2. Houses by Elyse Weinberg. Weinberg made a couple of albums in the 1968-1971. She fell away from the music business after that. This song is brilliant, original, tough and jittery at the same time. 3. Corinna by Taj Mahal. A simple elemental sounding folk blues song but tricky to deliver authentically. I’d give it a go! 4. Are You Ready For The Country by Neil Young. It’s great simple 12 bar format but has a slow intensity with slide guitar and an anti-war message. 5. Colours by Donovan. It’s originally a lyrical folk song but lends itself to a bluesy country rock rendering. I sing this song with a band called the Pinks that I sometimes play with. 6. Everyday People by Sly and the Family Stone. It’s been recorded by quite a few artists including Aretha Franklin and an adapted hip-hop version by Arrested Development. It’s an evergreen message over basically one chord with a great feel. One chord songs are not easy to write! 7. Kiss Them For Me by Siouxie and the Banshees. It’s not a typical song for this band but has a really catchy psychedelic pop sheen. It’s about the actress Jayne Mansfield. I’d try it with mandolin and slide guitars.

KB: Are there artists currently who you would love to collaborate with? Who and why?

Reg: I would like to collaborate with Bob Dylan and Keith Richards because their tastes in music are similar to mine and I am a big fan of their work. Also, of all the famous historical music acts that I admire they are among the few that are still alive.

Pete: I’d like to work with jazz musicians more. We’ve had jazz players do guest spots one some of our Dog Trumpet songs in the past, but it would be interesting to do more within my song writing to add unexpected colours and textures. I like the idea of blending genres.

KB: What are you up to now? Touring, recording?

Reg: We played our first gigs in Sydney in a while, and we did a short tour to Canberra and the south coast of NSW.

Pete: We have a new Dog Trumpet album recorded and ready for November release so are playing shows until then.

Check out the band’s website: HERE

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