CHRIS KLONDIKE MASUAK’S TOP SEVERAL OF 2020 Guitarist, Viveiro Wave Riders Ex-Radio Birdmnan, Hitmen, Screaming Tribesmen, New Christs Viveiro, Galicia, Spain
We were having fun at the start of 2020.
The Viveiro Wave Riders had already been hither and yon … around the country and up to Breizh (“Yec’hed mad!” with the emphasis on “mad”) when it all came to a shuddering halt.
Life abruptly became somewhat more complicated, confusing, and occasionally alarming, but that’s not to say it stopped being entertaining.
COVIDOUCHERY We jumped on protocols pretty quick-smart over here in Spain, even as our hospitals became alarmingly overwhelmed and morgues literally over spilled.
We were heartened, encouraged, and edified by the sage advice that flooded social media from other apparently more civilised and informed countries.
We hardly even scratched our heads in wonder at their oblivious dawdling procrastination and general goldbricking, or as they gathered in teeming proliferation to demonstrate in support of their “rights” even as their “leaders” unequivocally let them know Just What The Priorities Actually Were.
Penny onstage with Dimi Dero, Vinz Gulluliy and Johnny Casino at Andoaingo Rock Jaialdia in Basque Country.
In no particular order:
1. GUITAR WOLF (Japan) and Mach Pelican at The Bendigo Hotel, Melbourne Ah! Guitar Wolf! Boy, can these guys fly! Liberating and exhilarating to listen to and watch. Every now and then I go to a gig and get a guitar lesson for the price of the entrance fee! This is the second time I have seen these guys, and there I was, right up the front again, with my comrade in arms, Julian Wu, protector of rock ’n’ roll women in volatile crowds.
2. CHARLIE OWEN at The State Library of Victoria, Melbourne Charlie melded instruments - electronic, electric and acoustic - in a way only Charlie knows how. Situated in the Reading Room of the State Library of Victoria, a tremendous building built in the gold rush era of the 1850s, the setting was opulent and reverential. Charlie had his very own pulpit/stage so to speak and kept us spellbound for an hour or so.
Skin and Bones – MD Horne’s Last Call (self released)
Last year’s “Red Dirt Bituman” album was a departure for 300 st clare and Johnny Casino bassist Mark Horne, and his 2021 incarnation MD Horne’s Last Callsounds like another. While “Bituman” headed for the wide open spaces of the Australian bush, framing Horne’s sparse songs against a stark, dry soundscape, “Skin and Bones” hops into a boat and sets sail on folk-punk seas.
“Skin and Bones” is the first track to be released (digitally, natch) from the forthcoming Last Call album, "High Tides, More Crimes", on OuttaSpace Records in Australia and both Folc Recordsand La Villa Nova in Spain.
It's said great songwriters know to write about the things they know about. Johnny Casino has a new 45 imminent and it reflects the strange times in which we all live.
“Twenty Twenty” was written and recorded in the early days of COVID-19 as the expatriate Australian was stuck in Philadelphia, trying to work out a way to get back to his adopted home of Spain. The flip, “People Say”, is a Bored! cover recorded in Spain in stripped-back style as a tribute to that band’s late frontman Dave Thomas, who passed away in 2020.
The vinyl single is out on Spanish imprint Folc Records on January 15 and available for pre-order here.
“’Twenty Twenty’ explains how i was feeling during the months of March and April 2020,” Johnny says. “I had just touched down into Philadelphia International Airport and my brother-in-rock Billy was waiting to pick me up, and his first words were: ‘Brrother I´m surprised they let you in.¨
“I had no idea what he was talking about!”
Casino explains: “Me and my wonderful wife Mayra live in a smallish seaside town called Denia in Spain and we knew there was ¨something¨ happening but not exactly what! We ain’t much for watching news or current affairs programs.
High Tides, More Crimes – MD Horne (Outtspace/FOLC/La Villa Nova)
Only a shit stirrer would start a review of an album with the rhetorical question: “How do you know you’re getting old? You start listening to bush bands”. Guilty as charged – on the shit stirrer charge, that is. Lock me up.
Yes, the second solo album from Sydney’s MD Hornecontains mandolin, didgeridoo, his own bass, a sprinkling of bush balladry, and even a sea shanty of sorts but, thankfully, no lagerphone. It’s also damned good.
Vibrations, yours and mine - Johnny Casino (La Vila Nova/Beluga Records/Golden Robot)
With the world turning to shit in every sense of the term, what's a poor boy to do other than play in a rock and roll band? The answer, in strange times of social distancing, is to record an album solo and pare the songs right back to resemble what they were like when first written.
Plenty will testify that going naked in front of a microphone is harder than it sounds - even with very few people watching. Johnny Casino's "Vibrations, yours and mine" was recorded in a modest Spanish studio in four hours, with some pedal steel and backing vocals overdubbed later courtesy of Hendrik Rover (Los Deltonos).
It was done pre-COVID but serves as a good template for how to go about things - which is with loads of emotional investment, a good deal of spontaneity and, importantly, heart.
The Downtown 3 are (from left) Carrie Phillis, Craig Jackson, Scott Nash and Johnny Casino. Emmy Etie photo.
During some lean times for rock and roll in Sydney, two staples of the live scene have been Johnny Casino & The Secrets and the Booby Traps. Casino (aka John Spittles) is a guitar toting veteran of hard-hitters Asteroid B612 and a variety of bands also much of his own making, The Secrets being the most durable (and essentially a two city collective with bases in Sydney and Melbourne) playing rootsy but righteous rock. The Booby Traps were a wonderful collision of fuzzy garage pop and girl group pizzaz, fronted by fetching songstress Carrie Phillis.
Expatriate Australian musician Johnny Casino (Asteroid B612, Johnny Casino & The Secrets) is now domiciled in Spain where he's been busy playing band and solo shows and recording in the studio. He's re-emerged on the Interwebs today with a taste of his next solo album with a cover of the Chris Bailey Saints' "Ghost Ships". You can stream it buy it (for a pittance) at Bandcamp via that link below. We're biased but think it shits all over Bruce Springsteen's "Just Like Fire Would".
The album is called "Vibrations...Yours and Mine" and it will be up clsoe and personal with JC, his vocie and a few guitar pedals. It's scheduled for release in March or April 2020.
He’s been out of sight but not out of mind since quitting Australia for love and moving to Spain, but Johnny Casino has been busy. On March 1 he notched up a birthday and launched a new album, “Time and Time Again” on LP and CD.
The album was recorded in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, Gandia and Els Poblets, Spain and was mixed in Spain and London, England, starting its life more than four years ago.
Instead of condensing the recording sessions into days or weeks at a time, Johnny was more content to simply only record when the moment or the feel of each song was right. That’s why the record was recorded in five different cities in three different countries.
The star-studded crew playing on the album includes Carrie Phillis (Boobytraps), Adam Pringle, Stew Cunningham (Leadfinger), Jodi Phillis (The Clouds) and Warren Hall (The Drones, Datura4, The Volcanics) as well as Spaniards Julain Marco, Isidro Rubio and Actor Ochoa.
The blurb says: “ ‘Time and time again’ is equal parts dangerous rock´n´roll, homespun rich melodies and sweeping cinematic views and was recorded with a roving cast of Johnny's musical brothers and sisters.In Johnny's words,” No reason to doubt it, but listen for yourself (and buy) at Bandcamp.
This is a clever stripped-down blues-rock album, a stark and personal journey full of evocative twists and turns and as grittilyAustralian as its wilfully mis-spelt title suggests.
“MD Horne” is Mark Horne, Sydney bassist for many bands but most notably the brutal 300 st claire and Johnny Casino and the Secrets. Mark recorded it on a sojourn to Spain, where his mate Johnny is domiciled. MD handles acoustic guitars and vocals, and Señor Casino plays everything else.
“Red Dirt Bituman” is Horne’s debut solo album and its title plays on the dichotomy of a man torn between his connections to the city and the bush. Truth be told, most Australians cling to the coast like limpets on a tin boat and wouldn’t be seen dead on a dirt road. M.D. Horne, has travelled plenty of dirt tracks and blacktops and his music speaks of both.
Favourite expatrate Sydney son Johnny Casino (Asteroid B612, Johnny Casino & The Secrets, The Egos) has a new album out on August 21. "Vibrations, yours and mine" is a stripped back and expansive sounding record, recorded live in the studio in his adopted home of Spain over four hours, with additonal pedal steel from collaborator Hendrik Rover (Los Deltonos).
It's a mix of trademark heartfelt Johnny Casino originals and intruiging covers, including versions of Gordon Lightfoot's "Sundown", the New Christs' "Dropping Like Flies" and The Saints' "Ghost Ships".
"Vibrations, tours and mine" will be on LP through Beluga Records in Sweden and La Vila Nova Recordings in Spain and on CD and digital out through Golden Robot Records in Australia.
"Another Girl" is the latest Johnny Casino track, and has been released digitally today via Golden Robot Records. It is the first single from his February 2022 release "5x7 the Days of Wine and Cola". The Spain-based expatriate former member of AsteroidB612, The Egos, Easy Action and his own Johnny Casino and The Secretswrote"Another Girl"as a moody acoustic piece -until it found its way into the recording studio on the Costa Blanca in Spain. Here, a fire had been lit underneath it, a couple of bottles of wine poured all over it and an inspired electric guitar burned into it by Johnny and his band. Stay tuned for news about the album.
Recorded in fits and spurts across four years and multiple countries, “Time and Time Again” had a drawn-out, trans-national gestation and birth. That’s fitting because it’s an album with a spirit that doesn’t need a visa to work in any place that’s receptive to spirited, heartfelt rock and roll.
It’s been said before but bears repetition: Johnny Casino’s been a moderately well-kept secret in his birth country of Australia since he struck out under his own name in the ‘90s. With Easy Action and then The Secrets - the former a US-spawned crew, the latter a rotating cast of members in various Aussie state capital cities - he’s built a formidable body of work without bothering mainstream taste arbiters.
This is not a real Top Ten list as such. Just a list of personal highlights that were beacons in what was another shit year for most of us.
The passing of Johnny Nolan(Bored!, Powder Monkeys, Powerline Sneakers) did not help. After his death, I read through al private messages we exchanged over the past decade. Johnny was a man of passion and so much love for music a genuine lovely bloke with his bands. R.I.P.
The Sonny Michaels Show This shambolic pisstake on the bad ‘70s TV host has equal parts Norman Gunston and Don Lane. We get two hours per month. It is so funny. Paula and Mike Brown are a talented duo and the Sonny Michaels character is world-class. They also present at least 15 artist videos who would not normally get viewed outside their YouTube channels .Great work.
1. COURETTES – “BACK IN MONO” (DAMAGED GOODS) The Courettes still seem to be without profile in these parts but have been gathering plenty of fans across Europe over the past few years. A Brazilian/ Danish wife (guitar & vocals)/ husband (drums) team who have been fine tuning their garage crossed with 60’s girl group sound, culminating in this whizz bang LP.
2. HARD-ONS - I'M SORRY SIR, THAT RIFF'S BEEN TAKEN (CHEERSQUAD) I thought the prior Hard-Ons album was their best yet and then they go and drop this. Hard to beat!
3. CIVIC - FUTURE FORECAST (FLIGHTLESS) Fantastic rockin’ album which delivers on the promise of their earlier EP and singles.
Johnny Casino albums are a treat for the converted and a revelation for those less fortunate. If you’re one of the latter, “Trade Winds” is as good a place as any to start.
It’s been way too long between records for Johnny - both this album and its predecessor "Time and Time Again" are old recordings woodshedded for later release - but well worth the wait. The big fella from Sydney’s Northern Beaches makes Spain his home these days, where he plies his dual trades of tattooing and playing music.
“Trade Winds” was recorded before he emigrated a couple of years ago with a crack band in North Fremantle, Western Australia. Drummer Warren Hall (The Volcanics, Datura 4, The Drones), a longtime Casino sideman, joined with Martyn P Casey (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds /The Triffids/Grinderman) played bass. That’s as fine an engine room as you’ll find.
What does an Australian band that’s revelling in Spain’s delights (not the least of which is the populace's love of Real Rock and Roll) do on a day off from a European tour? Go into a studio and slap down some tracks, of course.
This six-track EP, committed to tape/hard drive in 2017, is the result of that and represents the first stirrings from the Leadfinger camp for more than a year, following band leader Stew Cunningham’s successful fight against cancer.. Fuck, it’s great to have him - and them - back.
“La Banda en Espana” sounds like the band was having a ball. It's not meant to be too serious. It's not going to make them rich.