Tripod on Lady Robots and Fegh Maha
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
This interview with Tripod lasted about half an hour and was most enjoyable. Iâd 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
This interview was broadcast on ABC NewsRadio on June 5 2004, a week before Tripodâs run of Lady Robots ended at Brisbaneâs Powerhouse. Tripodâs 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: âGhost Shipâ - from the albumFegh Maha
The murderers, the thieves and the fraudulent.
The overweight, the working class, and the foreigners â
They all must beware for, whatâs that looming there?
An evil spectre on the seaâ¦
Ghost ship â coming to get them.
Ghost ship â sinners beware!
Ghost ship â ainât no escaping
The ghost ship coming thereâ¦
Demetrius Romeo: Yon, Scod, Gatesy, Iâve 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 âgorgeous oneâ, the ânerdâ and the âweird oneâ, and Iâm not naming names here, âcause what I consider gorgeous might be totally different to what you think people consider gorgeous.
GATESY: Oh no, Iâm gorgeous; Iâm really gorgeous.
SCOD: He is.
YON: Heâs hot.
Demetrius Romeo: Can I just get you guys to introduce yourselves?
SCOD: Sure. Iâm starting. This is me. Iâve got glasses on, Iâve got a slightly receding hairline. My nameâs Scod. I play guitar most of the time in Tripod.
YON: This is Yon. Iâm the one with the big eyes. Iâm told I have a âbiscuit voiceâ so just think âbiscuit voiceâ, âbig eyesâ.
GATESY: And Iâm Gatesy â obscenely talented.
Soundbite: âApparentlyâ from the album Open Slather (and Open Slather Special Christmas Edition)
Apparently (apparently, pparently, pparently)
They have the technology (technology, nology, nology)
To track any stolen mobile
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 donât 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, itâs true. Weâre still ourselves. Big versions thereof. YON: We have to wash the âfunnyâ off, because weâre just too funny in real life. It becomes too much. GATESY: Thatâs 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 âHeckâ but I got kicked out for suggesting a jazz song. It was a pub band, and I wanted to do âDream a Little Dream of Youâ. 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 rockinâ on the sidewalks, Yon and I.
YON: We were playing in a pub called âCheersâ. You know the TV show? It was sort of a theme pub based on that.
The clients werenât as funny as they are on the TV show.
Soundbite: âCuckoldâ 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
And these cuckolditory things
That make me post-cuckoldicâ¦
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, didnât we.
YON: Sometimes I think a job finds you; it certainly has in our case.
Soundbite: âI Always Get Into Stuffâ from the album Fegh Maha
Iâm never too far behind;
I follow the trends
But I never take any risks.
Iâm not ahead of the pack,
Iâm just with the pack
Towards the back.
Iâm not the middle-of-the-road,
But itâs a safe distance from where I stand.
Iâve got the âGreatest Hitsâ
Of some very cutting-edge bandsâ¦
Demetrius Romeo: Now, in a lot of ways you reached the broader audience when you started doing the âsong in an hour challengeâ, a little while ago now. How did the âsong in an hour challengeâ begin?
GATESY: It sort of didnât 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 donât really exist in the world anymore. One of them was Bevan Addinsall, and his challenge was to write a musical about Bevan Adinsallâs life, and he asked me if I could help him with it. We knocked this thing up very quicklyâ¦
Soundbite: âKnockinâ on Bevanâs Doorâ section of Bevan the Musical
Take Debbie Byrne away from me.
âCause I canât use her anymore.
Sheâs gettinâ too old for Y.T.T.
Now Iâm knockinâ on Bevanâs door.
I, hi-aye-aye â Iâm knock, knock, knockinâ
On Bevanâs doorâ¦
GATESY: I just used âBevanâ; rhymed his name with âheavenâ.
Soundbite: âBevan (Must Be There)â section of Bevan the Musical
Ooooooh, Iâm searchinâ for a better guy
Whooooooâd look good in a pink jacket with a skinny tie.
Must be there.
You know heâs got to be there.
GATESY: I got all the songs I could possibly doâ¦
Soundbite: âSlice of Bevanâ section of Bevan the Musical
A shininâ star is rising, get your
Slice of Bevan!
GATESY: â¦ and itâs one joke. One joke!
Soundbite: âStairway to Bevanâ section of Bevan the Musical
And theyâre buying a stairway to Bevan!
YON: Yeah. We like to see that weakness as a strength, but you are right. Topicality is still our weakness. Weâre probably slightly better informed, but only through the topics we get given. Weâve 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 whatâs going on in the world from the âSong in an Hourâ 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 isnât possible. Youâve 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 â for example, a battle on a planet between a huge ATST Walker from Return of the Jedi and three guys â we do pull it off! So itâs 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 inâ¦ oh, Iâll try to get it right: Tripod Tells The Tale Of The Adventures of Tosswinkle The Pirate (Not Very Well) YON: Yep, thatâs it. SCOD: Youâre very familiar with our oeuvre. GATESY: I like this guy! YON: Heâs all over our oeuvre! SCOD: Heâs my favourite so far!
Demetrius Romeo: So why the Star Wars figures?
SCOD: Itâs just a very powerful image; it really places who we are and where we come from, I think. Itâs not even that thought out, itâs just,
âIâve got this thing at home that might be cool; shall I bring it in?â
âItâs another Star Wars figure, isnât it?â
Demetrius Romeo: Now thatâs interesting: âwhere you come fromâ, and âwhether or not the Star Wars figure is coolâ; the âcoolificationâ of ânerdinessâ plays a big role in what you guys do.
YON: Well, you know, youâve got to work with what youâve got, and if you do it with enough confidence, people believe you. Thatâs where we come from. Thereâs no point in trying to pretend that we were in the footy team.
Soundbite: âScience Facts Are Usefulâ from the album About An Hour Of Song-In-An-Hourâ¦ Again
Well you may not see a scientist do rock ânâ roll,
But they understand the mineral properties of ârockâ,
As well as the physics of ârollâ.
âOh, Mr Scientist, Iâve burnt my hand bone on a boiling water.
âHow do you know it was boiling? Was it bubbling?â
âThen it wasnât really boiling.â
âI feel better already.â
SCOD: Without getting too ânuts and boltsâ about things, the status changes all the time in what we do. YOD: The thing is, weâre 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 couldnât carry it off. SCOD: Itâs not realistic. GATESY: Nup. Demetrius Romeo: So it was never a fixed thing? YON: Thatâs the first thing that people probably see when we step on stage, but you canât 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: Itâs a good starting point, though, because then you can play against their expectations. GATESY: And thatâs the fun bit. Soundbite: âEveryoneâs A Tosserâ from Tripod Tells The Tale of the Adventures of Tosswinkle the Pirate (Not Very Well)
Everybodyâs a tosser,
Everyoneâs a shmo,
From Robert Louis Stevenson,
To Edgar Allen Poe.
We're all bloody cockspanks,
The experts all agree.
The experts, theyâre all tossers too.
Just like you and me! Ha ha ha!
â¦ The louder that you say youâre not,
The louder that you are.
Youâre a bonehead!
Youâre a franger!
Youâre a spazmo!
Youâre a shwanger!
Youâre a tosser! Itâs a fact you canât ignore.
âCause everyone's a tosser.
But you, slightly more.
Demetrius Romeo: Youâve got a new album out, âFegh Mahaâ, and itâs a double CD. So much material; whatâs the story?
SCOD: Itâs our âWhite Albumâ.
YON: Yep, it is. You just put all the crap in it with the good stuff.
GATESY: And also, we havenât had time; we just havenât 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 thereâs some moments at Brisbane Powerhouse, where weâre playing at the moment, and at the Hifi in Melbourne, and at another place called the Prince Pat; I mean, itâs all over the shop.
SCOD: We started off the year this year by listening literally, to three full daysâ worth of tapes of our own material, which is the strangest experience.
GATESY: Itâs 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: Thereâs this sort of âswingyâ one that we do, called â I always say âswingâ; itâs hardly swing, itâs an acoustic guitar â but itâs called âLetâs Take A Walkâ and I think the version we did on the night at the Hifi was good.
YON: Yeah, yeah, I like that.
Soundbite: âLetâs Take A Walkâ from the album Fegh Maha
Letâs 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.
Letâs not forget, my love,
It was our favourite spot once.
Please donât let one bloated corpse
Ruin all our memories.
YON: Thereâs also a spiritual one called âSome Day The Lordâ, which is in âLady Robotsâ as well, which I think is probably the only time weâve ever sung it in tune, so thankfully thatâs the one that got committed to tape.
Soundbite: âSomeday The Lordâ from the album Fegh Maha
Someday the Lordâs gonna find me a loving girl.
Heâll set us up with a mansion and a trust fund.
And we wonât have to do anything all day.
We wonât have to work or even have to play.
Weâll be completely free of cares,
Weâll be suspended in a tank,
And he will feed us through a tube
âCause heâs the Lord.
Demetrius Romeo: What does the title of the album Fegh Maha actually mean?
YON: Well, itâs the name of a tennis player from Morocco that we like.
SCOD: Yeah. Heâs not a great tennis player, and he doesnât really âgo inâ that muchâ¦
YON: No, heâs not huge.
SCOD: Let me paint you a picture: heâs about six foot-seven, heâs bald, heâs got a temper, so he always puts on a show for the crowd, and he doesnât really know the rules of tennis.
YON: Heâs sort of like a black John McEnroe, without the talent.
GATESY: Very, very emotional individual. SCOD: Heâs all heart, Fegh Maha. Thatâs what we love about him. GATESY: Heâs all heart. SCOD: Heâs a triumph of heart over skill. GATESY: I think heâs playing for the wrong reason. There, I said it. SCOD: The wrong reasons? How dâyou figure? GATESY: I think itâs all about the fame, the money, and his heartâ¦ YON: I think heâs just being himself. GATESY: Yeah, anywayâ¦
Demetrius Romeo: So why did you seek to immortalise Fegh Maha?
SCOD: His nameâs fun to say: âFegh Mahaâ!
GATESY: And he has brought us a lot of happiness over the last few tennis seasons.
Demetrius Romeo Now Iâve got to take issue with the statement that itâs your first album since 2000, but that suggests that youâre not taking into account your âSong in an Hourâ compilations. YON: They sort of make themselves. We donât count them, in a sense. GATESY: We donât take something that weâve written in an hour very seriously, for some reason. SCOD: Itâs like this party trick thatâs grown out of all proportion. GATESY: Exactly! YON: If itâs possible to say, thatâs 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: Weâre 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 itâs a full studio project with a band and everything. Itâs songs from the sketch show that weâve just finished doing and itâs 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 didnât 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, thatâs 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 âbitsâ 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 itâs 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 theyâd be a bit contrived because people watch us like they are watching a band that â hopefully â is funny and so if we start going into this thing of âletâs play charadesâ, sometimesâ¦ SCOD: Itâs a slightly long bow, sometimesâ¦ GATESY: Massive! SCOD: Thanks to SkitHOUSE, it puts you in the situation. Thereâs no translating to be done. And also, itâs really helped. Especially here in Brisbane, because weâre doing this narrative show and people key into straight away. They donât come along expecting it to be a bunch of songs like usual. Because theyâve 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? Thatâs the only one. And weâve only done that in Melbourne and Adelaide. So for places like Brisbane, thatâs the first time weâve done anything like that. Demetrius Romeo: Well then Iâd better ask some specific questions that deal with that! Yon, Scod and Gatesy all laugh. Demetrius Romeo: No, Iâm really professional, hang onâ¦ GATESY: I know, this is great. SCOD: Iâm 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, âletâs write a science fiction storyâ? YON: No, Iâll 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 hadnât written purposely for it. SCOD: The show Lady Robots started with an e-mail going around saying, âmaybe we should do a post-apocalyptic nightmare vision of the futureâ¦ comedyâ¦ with songsââ¦ 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 âTripod go progâ, because youâve got your send up of Jeff Wayneâs âWar of the Worldsâ with the Richard Burton narrative thrown in. SCOD: Yeah. I think you may be our target audience, actually, if Iâm not mistaken. GATESY: Can you come again? Thatâd be good. YON: Can you write our reviews? SCOD: It has got a lot in it in terms of references to stuff weâre into and itâs certainly rich with that sort of material if people are looking for it. There are always little quotes and stuff in there that Iâm hoping people will get that they donât always. Demetrius Romeo: But then youâve got things like âThe Nachos Brothersâ which is just funny. YON: âThe Nachos Brothersâ! Demetrius Romeo: Have I got it wrong? YON: Theyâre called âThe Guitar Kingsâ. GATESY: But your favourite âGuitar Kingâ was Nachos, wasnât he? Yes. That was my character. Yes. SCOD: Yes, a lot of itâs just silly, but that example, âThe Guitar Kingsâ, 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 donât have that tag anymore, so all youâve got are the two set-ups, and we panic and go, âuh, umâ¦ guitar!â and start playing guitar. SCOD: Itâs 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 itâs a six-stringed applause machine. GATESY: Which it is, by the way. SCOD: But itâs all a question of what your priorities are. Iâm 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 youâve 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 itâs really nice, but anyone starting in anything, itâs very rare that someone starts out with their own unique thing, you know? You start out and youâve seen other stuff and they loom big in your mind, the other acts youâve seen, and it takes a while to get your own thing going, I reckon. GATESY: Especially to change peopleâs minds, as we were saying before: one look at us, three voices and a guitar, theyâll immediately go, âoh, the Dougsâ or whatever. Itâs just a matter of doing your stuff and showing people that thatâs not what you do. In fact, we were the antithesis; we would go out of our way â or I would, personally â using the Dougs as a starting point and doing the absolute oppositeâ¦ SCOD: Which is also probably a bit of a trap too. GATESY: Absolutely, because youâre not being yourself, or youâre not playing it truthfully. SCOD: So many great, bizarre acts, certainly in music, have come out of people trying to do someone elseâs material in their own weird way, and itâs become some whole other thing. Freddie Mercury was aâ¦ what was he? A huge Hendrix fan? YON: Well, yeah, he was a Hendrix fan, heâs an opera fan, and him trying to do both is the Queen sound. Itâs 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 itâs a good thing for â I donât want to get wanky â theatre in general, that people are playing with forms and trying to see whatâs possible in terms of elements they can bring to their act, be it music or costume or puppetsâ¦ Iâm waiting for another puppet comedian! The time is nighâ¦
Demetrius Romeo: Tripod, thank you very much.
SCOD & GATESY: Thank you.
YON: Thanks Dom.
Soundbite: âJamminâ â from the album Fegh Maha