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Boom Crash Opera 'The Best Things' Tour 2014: Interview with Peter Farnan

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by Leona (Devaz) Fensome (subscribe)
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Dancing in the storm - Boom Crash Opera on tour
Boom Crash Opera
Boom Crash Opera


It's Valentine's day and on the weekend the INXS mini-series is being aired on television. Peter Farnan (songwriter and guitarist) of Boom Crash Opera is having an incredibly humorous morning. His feature article, 'Boom, crash: the TV myth of INXS (and their part in my downfall)', published in Crikey's Daily Review the day before, is attracting a lot of attention. Almost as much as the band's iconic outfits in the the late 80's.

"It's been quite amusing. It was a scary piece to write." Pete's first attempt was rejected by the editor who claimed, it was good, but too boring. Asking instead, "can't you put in stuff about drugs and things?" I hardly knew these guys, the contact was very fleeting. It was in a band room in 1980, but y'know it was funny. The whole rock band endeavour is about building a myth. It's exactly what we were trying to do."

His revised version has cut a chord with fans of both bands alike, "the editor is a mate of mine, I don't think if I was a mate he would've of said it like that. He just would've said it's not good!" Pete laughs. The emails have been flooding in since, "it's become a full time job managing social media, people write funny responses y'know, it just kind of spirals and spins out of control."

Social media has a way of being uncontrollable, Boom Crash Opera's Facebook fan page is awash with photos reminiscent of the bands colourful early days. "I wish I could get rid of them! They are terrible, ohhh, what was I thinking?" Pete cringes and groans at the thought of his fashionable past. "I hate that stuff, I used to dress like I was a bumblebee. Ohhhh, so embarrassing."

When asked if any bumblebee outfits will be donned on their current Australian tour, there is a resounding 'no'. "No, no that stuff is long gone. Y'know when you slide the door on a Tarago, the sliding door when you get in, when it's late night after the end of the gig? I used to hang those clothes on the side of the door and forget that I'd hung them there. So I'd lose them. It's a good thing, because they are gone, they are on a roadside somewhere." Pete seems very glad and non-remorseful for the loss of his threads.

Peter Farnan, Boom Crash Opera
Peter Farnan, Boom Crash Opera


Perhaps fans stole them as mementos? "Hopefully. As I'm a Melbourne boy, it's basic black for me now." Back on the road for an Australian tour five years after their last album, the band are promoting their new greatest hits album The Best Things, and a four-album box set Rattle it Out.

"There's two things, there's a Best of, it's just a basic CD. It's got the hits and two new songs we recorded last year, which surprised us, but we did do two songs last year. It wasn't planned." The band wanted to do something new, but just couldn't find the reason to do it. "Then I got this phone call from Connie Johnson, who is this woman who is dying of cancer. Dale knew her when she was a kid, as he used to go and visit kids in hospital. So, she just rang up and said look, I'm ahhhhhh…. could we use one of your songs for a fundraising album?"

Connie's brother was riding a unicycle around Australia to raise awareness and funds. Fans may recognise the brother as Australian actor Samuel Johnson. "This is about a year ago and that got me going. We kind of needed a reason to write. The Best of has the two new songs on it and the box set has our first three albums, we stacked them with extra tracks, B sides we recorded at the time. The box set has also got a fourth CD material that was never released. It was typical of the corporate rock practice of the times. You would make these complete sounding recordings and then the management or the record company would go nahhhhhhh let's not put that one out!"

Boom Crash Opera
Boom Crash Opera


When asked if this was common practice at the time, Pete reflects, "everybody was second guessing everybody else. There was no sort of, well... is that what you guys have got? Okay, let's put it out. Instead, it was just betting and often they were wrong. I know the American record company didn't get 'Onion Skin' as they said you can't have a song called 'Onion Skin', but they did put it out and it did work. So when it came to the next album, they had the opposite point of view and none of the songs sounded like 'Onion Skin.' They'd ask, can't you give us another Onion Skin? It was like that the whole time."

Boom Crash Opera was formed in the early days by frontman Richard 'Rich' Pleasance and Pete 'Bungie Farnan'. "Rich and I started the band, there was this really fertile scene in Melbourne. The bands were fantastic but they kept breaking up. The Boom Crash Opera project was – let's put a group together that doesn't break up. The Hunters (Hunters and Collectors) stayed together, they came from that scene. And there was a band Richard was in called Bang."

Dale Ryder, Boom Crash Opera
Dale Ryder, Boom Crash Opera


Pete asks if I remember the band Big Pig? (I do, this is the legacy of being a Gen X-er.) "Well Bang was Big Pig, but with Richard Pleasance and Nick Seymour in it. That was an all-star band and out of that band came Big Pig, Crowded House and Boom Crash Opera." Gen-X fans will no doubt remember these bands and how they shaped Australian music, becoming iconic pioneers in the industry.

Reminiscing about his early musical influences Pete reflects, "there are key moments in your life, y'know where this music or this particular band is there. I know when I was an adolescent in the 70's, Split Enz was that band for me. Y'know I am talking about the early prog-rock Split Enz, I remember all that stuff vividly. Interestingly Peter Green (who Pete is in daily contact with), runs Friends of the Enz and Crowded House fan clubs, ran our fan club too."

One thing that is standing the test of time, is his ability to play songs off the top of his head. Pete's innate talent lies in listening to a song and playing it back by picking up on the chords. A trick of the trade one could say. "That is my great skill. I found I can remember and play anything I've heard up until 1992[. It could be age related," Pete declares laughing "and particularly those things that went in when you were an adolescent and through your twenties they stick, so I've got a whole lot of crap in my brain that I wish I could forget!"

"I often do that sort of stuff though. A mate rang me last night and said, my dad wants to play this Died Pretty song. I just listened to it on Youtube and wrote the chords out. It was easy. But ummm, I can't remember that song today, I've forgotten (laughs). I can still remember Let's Hear it for the Boys and Flashdance. Oh god – I wish I could get rid of that stuff!" It's at this point Pete collapses into laughter and grimaces at the thought of these pop tunes overstaying their welcome.

Boom Crash Opera @ Northcote Social Club
Boom Crash Opera @ Northcote Social Club


With thoughts of being up on stage at the Northcote Social Club in a few weeks, Pete details the first BCO film clip. "That was an abomination, we had no idea what to wear. A friend of ours was a stylist and she'd worked with Bob (Geldof) and Bono on Live Aid, and she was dropping Bob and Bono's names while she was working, and you don't have time to think about it. I was looking at myself thinking I would never wear this, I feel like I'm dressed up like a wedding cake!"

Unlike a wedding cake, the outfits stayed around much longer. "Once the first shots been taken, that's it – that's what you have to wear for the next 22 hours. And then it's on the telly and then it's on Youtube...If you're old enough you would've committed a fashion atrocity in the 80's," Pete confirms. Yes, this is very true.

The early days of Boom Crash Opera
The early days of Boom Crash Opera


Are the band looking to present a unified stylish front on their current tour? "Part of this band mythology, this ethos is that there's got to be this kind of unity, of what you look like and something has to tie you all together. We've always been very different people and that was always a big issue." With the band back together, the group are just going to wear what they want. And rightly so. "It's almost like a reaction to what we all had to go through 25-30 years ago."

The band have been "dribbling around" over the last five years, doing shows and even going for a year without performing. Pete says, "well firstly the band kind of slipped into the fog in the 90's, we didn't break up we just stopped."

When asked why the band went off the radar, Pete replies, "because we didn't have the guts to say that's it, we're done. And umm, that is what our manager wanted us to do, go once around the block, do the farewell tour and then it's over.] And instead we didn't say it was over, but it was, and we had to go through the whole process of shutting down the companies and all those business partnerships."

Years later the band started playing again sporadically. " I love playing. Dale (Ryder) is more blase about it, but he does gigs every week. I don't play live that much these days."

Being off the circuit means that Pete has one major worry. He doesn't have any callouses on his fingers from regular gigging. "By the time we get to Onion Skin my hand will be hurting!" Does he have stage fright? He confides that in one particular gig in Sydney he worried so much he felt ill before the gig. "I slept through the afternoon and went down to the show, some kid was mixing. He was born after our career ended and he goes ahhhhhh, I don't think I've heard of you guys? Things were disorganised and we were trying to play songs from twenty years ago, we hadn't practised them and it just felt like it was going to be crap."

"From the moment the first song was counted off, it was like KAPOW this monster was let out of the box. And ummmm, that is the funny thing about it. We used to worry about whether we could bring the monsters alive. Now it just kind of... it's just there. It resides in that body of work in that group of people. We just have to hit go and there she blows."

Pete's hoping the Melbourne gig coming up on the 8th of March will be the same positive experience, "that is going to be a weird night for us, because we are going to attempt to play things we haven't played before. We are rock solid on Onion Skin, but as soon as we play new things it falls apart!"

Boom Crash Opera
Boom Crash Opera


BOOM CRASH OPERA NATIONAL TOUR DATES

Saturday 22 Feb – Between The Bays Festival – Mooroduc, VIC
Tickets from www.betweenthebays.com

Sunday 2 March – Clipsal 500 w/- Keith Urban – Adelaide, SA
Tickets from www.clipsal500.com.au

Saturday 8 March – Northcote Social Club – Melbourne, VIC
Tickets from www.northcotesocialclub.com
 (03) 9489 3917

Sunday 9 March – Motor City Music Festival – Geelong, VIC
Tickets from www.motorcitymusicfestival.com.au

Saturday 22 March – A Day on the Green w/- Jimmy Barnes – Bimbadgen Hunter Valley, NSW
Tickets from www.adayonthegreen.com.au

Friday 28 March – Lone Star Tavern – Gold Coast, QLD
Tickets from www.lonestartaven.com.au or www.ticketmaster.com.au
 (07) 5572 2000

Saturday 29 March – Racehorse Hotel – Ipswich, QLD
Tickets from www.racehorsehotel.com.au or www.ticketmaster.com.au (07) 3282 1222

Sunday 30 March – A Day on the Green w/- Jimmy Barnes – Sirromet, QLD
Tickets from www.adayonthegreen.com.au

Thursday 3 April – The Factory Theatre, Sydney NSW
Tickets from www.factorytheatre.com.au or www.oztix.com.au
 (02) 9550 3666

Friday 4 April – Terrey Hills Tavern, Sydney NSW
Tickets from www.terreyhillstavern.com.au or www.moshtix.com.au (02) 9486 3343

Saturday 5 April – Taren Point Hotel, Sydney NSW
Tickets from www.tarenpointhotel.com.au or www.moshtix.com.au (02) 9525 2879

Saturday 3 May – Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, Adelaide SA
Tickets from www.thegov.com.au or www.oztix.com.au (08) 8340 0744
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