Garry McDonald on Norman Gunston, Mother & Son and Comedy
“Why you, I orta…” – an old interview with Lano & Woodley regarding their show Bruiser

Tripod on Lady Robots and Fegh Maha

This interview with Tripod lasted about half an hour and was most enjoyable. I’d forgotten how much fun it could be to interview someone you genuinely admire when they are happy to be interviewed.

The finished interview conveyed the fun we were having, even if most of the laughter and silliness was removed. However, for the purposes of this blog, a vanity project if ever there was one, I reinstate the unmitigated praise and some of the other questions and answers that had to be cut. They appear struck through.

This interview was broadcast on ABC NewsRadio on June 5 2004, a week before Tripod’s run of Lady Robots ended at Brisbane’s Powerhouse. Tripod’s new album Fegh Maha is so good that it has me hanging out for the opportunity to see them live on stage again.

If you want to hear the broadcast version, an MP3 of it resides here.


Soundbite: ‘Ghost Ship’ - from the albumFegh Maha


The murderers, the thieves and the fraudulent.
The overweight, the working class, and the foreigners –
Err!
They all must beware for, what’s that looming there?
An evil spectre on the sea…

Ghost ship!
Ghost ship!
Ghost ship – coming to get them.
Ghost ship – sinners beware!
Ghost ship – ain’t no escaping
The ghost ship coming there…


Demetrius Romeo: Yon, Scod, Gatesy, I’ve got to be honest with you. I find it difficult to tell you guys apart. In the first place you have funny names. In the second place I only know you as the ‘gorgeous one’, the ‘nerd’ and the ‘weird one’, and I’m not naming names here, ’cause what I consider gorgeous might be totally different to what you think people consider gorgeous.

GATESY: Oh no, I’m gorgeous; I’m really gorgeous.

SCOD: He is.

YON: He’s hot.

Demetrius Romeo: Can I just get you guys to introduce yourselves?

SCOD: Sure. I’m starting. This is me. I’ve got glasses on, I’ve got a slightly receding hairline. My name’s Scod. I play guitar most of the time in Tripod.

YON: This is Yon. I’m the one with the big eyes. I’m told I have a ‘biscuit voice’ so just think ‘biscuit voice’, ‘big eyes’.

GATESY: And I’m Gatesy – obscenely talented.

Soundbite: ‘Apparently’ from the album Open Slather (and Open Slather Special Christmas Edition)


Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba
Apparently (apparently, pparently, pparently)
They have the technology (technology, nology, nology)
To track any stolen mobile
Pho-o-o-o-o-o-o-one
All you have to do
Is get the police to go out and arrest
Everyone with a stolen mobile phone.
And that is too much of a sacrifice!

Demetrius Romeo: When I first encountered Tripod some time ago, I was told that you guys were essentially yourselves, taken out of the shower, clothed and put on stage. Does this description still hold true?

YON: Well, it does, but sometimes we don’t shower before the show.

GATESY: Rarely, do we shower before the show, actually. We shower after the show. We have to cleans ourselves.

SCOD: Yeah, it’s true. We’re still ourselves. Big versions thereof.

YON: We have to wash the ‘funny’ off, because we’re just too funny in real life. It becomes too much.

GATESY: That’s true.

Demetrius Romeo: How, essentially, did the three of you get together?

SCOD: Well we were in music theatre and bad bands around Melbourne for a long time.

I was in a band called ‘Heck’ but I got kicked out for suggesting a jazz song. It was a pub band, and I wanted to do ‘Dream a Little Dream of You’. I got a phone call the next day.

And then I met Yon at university music theatre. Yon had already been kicking around with Gatesy before that.

GATESY: We had been kicking out the jams. We were rockin’ on the sidewalks, Yon and I.

YON: We were playing in a pub called ‘Cheers’. You know the TV show? It was sort of a theme pub based on that. The clients weren’t as funny as they are on the TV show.

Soundbite: ‘Cuckold’ from the album Open Slather (and Open Slather Special Christmas Edition)


I am now a cuckold.
She cuckolded me.
Yeah, when your love is loving someone else,
A cuckold will you be.

Her cuckoldastic tendencies
Have brought me to my knees.
Oh please, I reminisce on my
Pre-cuckicious period.

And these cuckolditory things
That make me post-cuckoldic…


Demetrius Romeo: From playing with each other in different bands and knowing each other from different places, how did the trio get together?

YON: We sort of started informally, mucking around in intervals in shows and stuff, and then we started busking, and slowly developed out of that. And then, as we each came to a loose end in our other human pursuits, we ended up making more of a go of it in Tripod.

SCOD: Yeah, we sort of drifted up onto the shores of comedy, didn’t we.

YON: Sometimes I think a job finds you; it certainly has in our case.

Soundbite: ‘I Always Get Into Stuff’ from the album Fegh Maha


I’m never too far behind;
I follow the trends
But I never take any risks.
I’m not ahead of the pack,
I’m just with the pack
Towards the back.

I’m not the middle-of-the-road,
But it’s a safe distance from where I stand.
I’ve got the ‘Greatest Hits’
Of some very cutting-edge bands…


Demetrius Romeo: Now, in a lot of ways you reached the broader audience when you started doing the ‘song in an hour challenge’, a little while ago now. How did the ‘song in an hour challenge’ begin?

GATESY: It sort of didn’t have anything to do with Tripod in the beginning. Merrick & Rosso asked a guy called Peter Hellier to put together this challenge; his challenges were to find these celebrities, these people who don’t really exist in the world anymore. One of them was Bevan Addinsall, and his challenge was to write a musical about Bevan Adinsall’s life, and he asked me if I could help him with it. We knocked this thing up very quickly…

Soundbite: ‘Knockin’ on Bevan’s Door’ section of Bevan the Musical


Take Debbie Byrne away from me.
’Cause I can’t use her anymore.
She’s gettin’ too old for Y.T.T.
Now I’m knockin’ on Bevan’s door.
I, hi-aye-aye – I’m knock, knock, knockin’
On Bevan’s door…

GATESY: I just used ‘Bevan’; rhymed his name with ‘heaven’.

Soundbite: ‘Bevan (Must Be There)’ section of Bevan the Musical


Ooooooh, I’m searchin’ for a better guy
Whoooooo’d look good in a pink jacket with a skinny tie.
Bevan
Must be there.
You know he’s got to be there.
Yeah, Bevan

GATESY: I got all the songs I could possibly do…

SCOD: Genius!

Soundbite: ‘Slice of Bevan’ section of Bevan the Musical


A shinin’ star is rising, get your
Slice of Bevan!

GATESY: … and it’s one joke. One joke!

Soundbite: ‘Stairway to Bevan’ section of Bevan the Musical


And they’re buying a stairway to Bevan!

Demetrius Romeo: Initially, topical stuff was your weakness. Is that still the case?

YON: Yeah. We like to see that weakness as a strength, but you are right. Topicality is still our weakness. We’re probably slightly better informed, but only through the topics we get given. We’ve sort of made a picture of world events based on what has been told to us on a Tuesday morning by Adam and Wil.

SCOD We sort of get our information of what’s going on in the world from the ‘Song in an Hour’ topics. And adds.

GATESY: Ignorance is bliss, and we want to be the happiest people alive, basically.

Demetrius Romeo: In your actual stage shows, fantasy plays a big role, particularly in your current show Lady Robots. Tell me what role fantasy plays in putting a show together.

GATESY: Whoah!

SCOD: Good question.

YON: Boy!

SCOD: I think, to do anything well, you have to have a lose grip on what is and isn’t possible. You’ve just got to be ambitious about what you can do, so being unrealistic and living in a bit of a fantasy world can tend to help you along, I think.

YON: Yeah. I think, in this show, the most outlandish ideas of what we want to portray – for example, a battle on a planet between a huge ATST Walker from Return of the Jedi and three guys – we do pull it off! So it’s giving yourself those challenges and then somehow trying to enact them. And it ends up being funny.

Demetrius Romeo: Now, the Star Wars figures are a recurring theme in your shows, I notice. They make an appearance in… oh, I’ll try to get it right: Tripod Tells The Tale Of The Adventures of Tosswinkle The Pirate (Not Very Well)

YON: Yep, that’s it.

SCOD: You’re very familiar with our oeuvre.

GATESY: I like this guy!

YON: He’s all over our oeuvre!

SCOD: He’s my favourite so far!

Demetrius Romeo: So why the Star Wars figures?

SCOD: It’s just a very powerful image; it really places who we are and where we come from, I think. It’s not even that thought out, it’s just,

‘I’ve got this thing at home that might be cool; shall I bring it in?’

‘It’s another Star Wars figure, isn’t it?’

‘Yep!’

YON: Yep!

Demetrius Romeo: Now that’s interesting: ‘where you come from’, and ‘whether or not the Star Wars figure is cool’; the ‘coolification’ of ‘nerdiness’ plays a big role in what you guys do.

YON: Well, you know, you’ve got to work with what you’ve got, and if you do it with enough confidence, people believe you. That’s where we come from. There’s no point in trying to pretend that we were in the footy team.

Soundbite: ‘Science Facts Are Useful’ from the album About An Hour Of Song-In-An-Hour… Again


Well you may not see a scientist do rock ’n’ roll,
But they understand the mineral properties of ‘rock’,
As well as the physics of ‘roll’.

‘Oh, Mr Scientist, I’ve burnt my hand bone on a boiling water.

‘How do you know it was boiling? Was it bubbling?’

‘Ah, no.’

‘Then it wasn’t really boiling.’

‘I feel better already.’

‘Go Science!’


Demetrius Romeo: Now I notice with more recent work, and I’m trying hard not to give anything away, there are different fall guys. Each time you put on a new show, a different nerd becomes the hero. Is that fair comment?

SCOD: Without getting too ‘nuts and bolts’ about things, the status changes all the time in what we do.

YOD: The thing is, we’re all mongs. You can try and set the roles as the idiot, the stupid one and the smart one who has nothing wrong one but we just couldn’t carry it off.

SCOD: It’s not realistic.

GATESY: Nup.

Demetrius Romeo: So it was never a fixed thing?

YON: That’s the first thing that people probably see when we step on stage, but you can’t really maintain it for too long.

GATESY: It is really strange, people really do want to know who we are, what our characters are in a nutshell at the beginning, and they just take it as read. They just look at us and they judge us, basically.

YON: It’s a good starting point, though, because then you can play against their expectations.

GATESY: And that’s the fun bit.

Soundbite:Everyone’s A Tosser’ from Tripod Tells The Tale of the Adventures of Tosswinkle the Pirate (Not Very Well)


Everybody’s a tosser,
Everyone’s a shmo,
From Robert Louis Stevenson,
To Edgar Allen Poe.

We're all bloody cockspanks,
The experts all agree.
The experts, they’re all tossers too.
Just like you and me! Ha ha ha!

The louder that you say you’re not,
The louder that you are.
You’re a bonehead!
You’re a franger!
You’re a spazmo!
You’re a shwanger!
You’re a tosser! It’s a fact you can’t ignore.
’Cause everyone's a tosser.
But you, slightly more.



Demetrius Romeo: You’ve got a new album out, ‘Fegh Maha’, and it’s a double CD. So much material; what’s the story?

SCOD: It’s our ‘White Album’.

YON: Yep, it is. You just put all the crap in it with the good stuff.

GATESY: And also, we haven’t had time; we just haven’t had time. I think our last one was in 2001.

SCOD: 2000. So all these recordings have been cropping up.

GATESY: Yeah, and we try to record wherever we are. Like on that CD there’s some moments at Brisbane Powerhouse, where we’re playing at the moment, and at the Hifi in Melbourne, and at another place called the Prince Pat; I mean, it’s all over the shop.

SCOD: We started off the year this year by listening literally, to three full days’ worth of tapes of our own material, which is the strangest experience.

GATESY: It’s a nightmare!

SCOD: It really is a nightmare.

YON: We had a good, hard, look at ourselves.

SCOD: Yeah. And we sort of forgot all the lessons that we learnt.

SCOD: If we were more ruthless than we wanted to be with cutting stuff, we could have fitted it on one album, but because it was recorded in a bunch of venues, it kind of just did feel like two things, so we put it together as two units.

Demetrius Romeo: Are there any songs that stick out as your favourite, or the night you really nailed that particular one?

SCOD: There’s this sort of ‘swingy’ one that we do, called – I always say ‘swing’; it’s hardly swing, it’s an acoustic guitar – but it’s called ‘Let’s Take A Walk’ and I think the version we did on the night at the Hifi was good.

YON: Yeah, yeah, I like that.

Soundbite: ‘Let’s Take A Walk’ from the album Fegh Maha


Let’s take a walk, my love,
Down by the river, my baby,
Down where we used to go
Until the day when we found that body.

Let’s not forget, my love,
It was our favourite spot once.
Please don’t let one bloated corpse
Ruin all our memories.


YON: There’s also a spiritual one called ‘Some Day The Lord’, which is in ‘Lady Robots’ as well, which I think is probably the only time we’ve ever sung it in tune, so thankfully that’s the one that got committed to tape.

Soundbite: ‘Someday The Lord’ from the album Fegh Maha


Someday the Lord’s gonna find me a loving girl.
He’ll set us up with a mansion and a trust fund.
And we won’t have to do anything all day.
We won’t have to work or even have to play.

We’ll be completely free of cares,
We’ll be suspended in a tank,
And he will feed us through a tube
’Cause he’s the Lord.


Demetrius Romeo: What does the title of the album Fegh Maha actually mean?

YON: Well, it’s the name of a tennis player from Morocco that we like.

SCOD: Yeah. He’s not a great tennis player, and he doesn’t really ‘go in’ that much…

YON: No, he’s not huge.

SCOD: Let me paint you a picture: he’s about six foot-seven, he’s bald, he’s got a temper, so he always puts on a show for the crowd, and he doesn’t really know the rules of tennis.

YON: He’s sort of like a black John McEnroe, without the talent.

GATESY: Very, very emotional individual.

SCOD: He’s all heart, Fegh Maha. That’s what we love about him.

GATESY: He’s all heart.

SCOD: He’s a triumph of heart over skill.

GATESY: I think he’s playing for the wrong reason. There, I said it.

SCOD: The wrong reasons? How d’you figure?

GATESY: I think it’s all about the fame, the money, and his heart…

YON: I think he’s just being himself.

GATESY: Yeah, anyway…

Demetrius Romeo: So why did you seek to immortalise Fegh Maha?

SCOD: His name’s fun to say: ‘Fegh Maha’!

GATESY: And he has brought us a lot of happiness over the last few tennis seasons.

Demetrius Romeo Now I’ve got to take issue with the statement that it’s your first album since 2000, but that suggests that you’re not taking into account your ‘Song in an Hour’ compilations.

YON: They sort of make themselves. We don’t count them, in a sense.

GATESY: We don’t take something that we’ve written in an hour very seriously, for some reason.

SCOD: It’s like this party trick that’s grown out of all proportion.

GATESY: Exactly!

YON: If it’s possible to say, that’s our novelty CD.

GATESY: It takes a lot more effort, heart and soul and arguments and hate and love into what we do usually.

SCOD: We’re working on another CD at the moment actually, which is the most exciting thing.

YON: Yeah, it should bring a lot more love and hate into the equation.

SCOD: Yeah, because it’s a full studio project with a band and everything. It’s songs from the sketch show that we’ve just finished doing and it’s going to be fully orchestrated versions, a la what we hear in our heads.

Demetrius Romeo: When you were first a bunch a singers, you didn’t do sketches between songs, you just kind of talked to each other and were silly. How has doing sketches on SkitHOUSE changed what you do as a trio of humorous musicians?

SCOD: Geez, that’s a good question!

GATESY: It is funny; from the beginning, especially when we started doing comedy, I reckon the second year we were at the Comedy Festival, we were actually starting to write ‘bits’ for in between songs. They were sort of character-driven, mini sketches, and even on the side, we used to do live shows and present video presentations and have little filmed little sketches that we played in between brackets, so it’s always been a direction we wanted to go in.

YON: But a lot of the ideas we would have, we would try to do them on stage, and sometimes they’d be a bit contrived because people watch us like they are watching a band that – hopefully – is funny and so if we start going into this thing of ‘let’s play charades’, sometimes…

SCOD: It’s a slightly long bow, sometimes…

GATESY: Massive!

SCOD: Thanks to SkitHOUSE, it puts you in the situation. There’s no translating to be done. And also, it’s really helped. Especially here in Brisbane, because we’re doing this narrative show and people key into straight away. They don’t come along expecting it to be a bunch of songs like usual. Because they’ve seen SkitHOUSE, they can buy into us as three characters in a story.

GATESY: In fact, we get audiences that have never even seen us perform live, so Lady Robots is what we do live, to them, which is, tell stories and sing crap.

Demetrius Romeo: But you were doing shows that consisted of stories with songs before.

YON: The Tosswinkle one, you mean? That’s the only one. And we’ve only done that in Melbourne and Adelaide. So for places like Brisbane, that’s the first time we’ve done anything like that.

Demetrius Romeo: Well then I’d better ask some specific questions that deal with that!

Yon, Scod and Gatesy all laugh.

Demetrius Romeo: No, I’m really professional, hang on…

GATESY: I know, this is great.

SCOD: I’m enjoying this.

YON: Yeah.

Demetrius Romeo: With Lady Robots, did you find that you had a bunch of songs that you happened to have written that fit together, and therefore suggested a story, or did you go, ‘let’s write a science fiction story’?

YON: No, I’ll tell you, at the start we really tried to shoe-horn as many pre-existing songs as we could into the show, but one by one, they just dropped off. Although, thankfully, there was one song we wrote since doing the first season of Lady Robots, which fit in really well, which we hadn’t written purposely for it.

SCOD: The show Lady Robots started with an e-mail going around saying, ‘maybe we should do a post-apocalyptic nightmare vision of the future… comedy… with songs’… it comes back to that stupid ambition I was talking about before. But then it all got pared away and became this other thing.

Demetrius Romeo: Did it become pared away? Because in a lot of ways, I see Lady Robots as ‘Tripod go prog’, because you’ve got your send up of Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’ with the Richard Burton narrative thrown in.

SCOD: Yeah. I think you may be our target audience, actually, if I’m not mistaken.

GATESY: Can you come again? That’d be good.

YON: Can you write our reviews?

SCOD: It has got a lot in it in terms of references to stuff we’re into and it’s certainly rich with that sort of material if people are looking for it. There are always little quotes and stuff in there that I’m hoping people will get that they don’t always.

Demetrius Romeo: But then you’ve got things like ’The Nachos Brothers’ which is just funny.

YON: ‘The Nachos Brothers’!

Demetrius Romeo: Have I got it wrong?

YON: They’re called ‘The Guitar Kings’.

GATESY: But your favourite ‘Guitar King’ was Nachos, wasn’t he? Yes. That was my character. Yes.

SCOD: Yes, a lot of it’s just silly, but that example, ‘The Guitar Kings’, is kind of a piss-take on ourselves, really, on the kind of novelty act that people think we are.

GATESY: My favourite part of the Guitar Kings is we tell a joke, which, you know, rule of three, there are two set-ups and a tag. We don’t have that tag anymore, so all you’ve got are the two set-ups, and we panic and go, ‘uh, um… guitar!’ and start playing guitar.

SCOD: It’s our support structure, having a guitar there. We got accused of it being quite a cheap ploy, having a guitar in our act.

YON: People have always said it’s a six-stringed applause machine.

GATESY: Which it is, by the way.

SCOD: But it’s all a question of what your priorities are. I’m there to sing songs, to be honest, so you kind of need a guitar, really.

Demetrius Romeo: Now, when you guys were first coming up, you unfortunately were always compared to a previous trio with a guitar. Now that you’ve been around for a while and there are other musical acts starting to get a name, they get compared to you. How do you feel about that.

YON: I think it’s really nice, but anyone starting in anything, it’s very rare that someone starts out with their own unique thing, you know? You start out and you’ve seen other stuff and they loom big in your mind, the other acts you’ve seen, and it takes a while to get your own thing going, I reckon.

GATESY: Especially to change people’s minds, as we were saying before: one look at us, three voices and a guitar, they’ll immediately go, ‘oh, the Dougs’ or whatever. It’s just a matter of doing your stuff and showing people that that’s not what you do. In fact, we were the antithesis; we would go out of our way – or I would, personally – using the Dougs as a starting point and doing the absolute opposite…

SCOD: Which is also probably a bit of a trap too.

GATESY: Absolutely, because you’re not being yourself, or you’re not playing it truthfully.

SCOD: So many great, bizarre acts, certainly in music, have come out of people trying to do someone else’s material in their own weird way, and it’s become some whole other thing. Freddie Mercury was a… what was he? A huge Hendrix fan?

YON: Well, yeah, he was a Hendrix fan, he’s an opera fan, and him trying to do both is the Queen sound. It’s your failure to be able to copy someone that often gives you a style.

Demetrius Romeo: So what are you feelings on the multitude of music acts that are around now?

GATESY: Good luck to them, I reckon!

SCOD: I think it’s a good thing for – I don’t want to get wanky – theatre in general, that people are playing with forms and trying to see what’s possible in terms of elements they can bring to their act, be it music or costume or puppets… I’m waiting for another puppet comedian! The time is nigh…

Demetrius Romeo: Tripod, thank you very much.

SCOD & GATESY: Thank you.

YON: Thanks Dom.

Soundbite: ‘Jammin’ – from the album Fegh Maha

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