Elsewhere I have documented the meaning of the name âGudâ; however, I have just discovered that âGUDâ is also an acronym for a medical condition known as âgenital ulcer diseaseâ. Make of it what you will.
The Scared Weird Little Guys have a special position in the pantheon of musical comedy outfits. Tripod have garnered a popular following through their presence initially on Triple J (with their âsong in an hourâ challenge and subsequent CD releases) and then on SkitHOUSE. Yet they have to contend with comparisons to other pre-existing trio-and-guitar combos â the Three Canadians, Corky and the Juice Pigs and the Doug Anthony Allstars to name but several. Then thereâs the Dodge, who began as Freefall but had to change their name for copyright reasons. I recall accosting members of the Dodge, while they were still Freefall, at a Melbourne Comedy Festival some years back. âI know you must get this all the time, but you know who you guys remind me of?â I began. âYeah, yeah, we know,â they said. âTripod.â Which was cute. They reminded me of early Allstars. But it was nice that everyone else who would have once been comparing Tripod to the Allstars was now comparing Freefall to Tripod. Then, of course, thereâs Gud â the band that are most like the Allstars, having, like the Allstars, Paul McDermott as their central character.
The Scared Weird Little Guys are the ones who get compared to others least of all, mostly because they are a duo (and partly because I canât be bothered bringing Lano & Woodley into this introduction, even though they began as a trio, became a duo, and also dabble in music).
Beginning as half of a barbershop quartet, the Scaredies have made much of being able to utilise many musical genres. Of late, they have taken to doing their own version of a musical challenge. Whereas Tripod are given a topic and an hour to turn it into a song, the Scared Weird Little Guys take a leaf out of Andrew Dentonâs book â since the âmusical challengeâ dates back not to Dentonâs Channel Seven tonight show of 1994, for which musical guests would have to render standards in their own style, but to an earlier show, The Money or the Gun, which featured âStairway to Heavenâ performed in various ways by a multitude of artists. The Scared Weird Little Guys invite musical challenges of that nature: in addition writing satirical songs, sometimes to the tune of familiar songs, the Scaredies like to perform familiar songs in vary unusual genres, and invite fans to submit suggestions for such songs in a prcess referred to as âStump the Scarediesâ.
Thus, the Scared Weird Little Guys' new album Bits and Pieces â the excuse upon which this interview is hung â contains a bunch of satirical ditties and a sampling of Scaredy-stumpings.
Having previously interviewed the Scared Weird Little Guys, I already knew the answers to a few of the questions. But they were worth hearing again in the context of the story, rather than trying to bung âem into an introduction â look how cumbersome this one is without them! Besides which, the answers sound even better when illustrated with soundbites.
The Scaredies have a clutch of shows coming up over the next little while, and theyâre a lot of fun live. Check âem out.
The interview went to air Saturday 15 May, an MP3 of which may be heard here.
Music: âRock n Roll All Nightâ in the style of a barbershop quartet â The Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Bits and Pieces
Demetrius Romeo: Before you became the Scared Weird Little Guys, you were both in a number of a cappella quartets. What led you both to comedy and to being in a duo? Rusty?
RUSTY BERTHER: We did start out, when we first met, in a barbershop quartet. In fact I was in this barbershop quartet for a year. It was called Four Chairs No Waiting and I was in that group for a year in Melbourne and then John auditioned and joined that group. Thatâs how we met. It was a bit of a âwacky, zanyâ kind of a group, which was a lot of fun and a good thing to be doing at that time. Then we were in another five-part a cappella group called the Phones, which was a little more serious on the music side, with heavy doses of comedy, but weâd decided when we started the Scared Weird Little Guys, âletâs write original comedy songsâ. So we kind of fell into it that way.
JOHN FLEMING: When Rusty and I met each other there was a bit of a bond that happened there, I guess. It was a business relationship but we were both into similar sort of stuff, so by the time three years had gone past, it seemed logical that we might go on to write some songs and I was playing guitar, we were both singing so we went for it.
Music: â30 Secondsâ â Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Live at 42 Walnut Crescent
Thereâs only thirty seconds left in this song.
If you got a stopwatch and tried to work it out
Then youâd find around now that the time remaining
Would equal twenty seconds, yeah.
Now itâs down to eighteen.
Seventeen seconds: no time to rest.
If this was an ad youâd be impressed.
If youâre in a hurry you wonât be late,
âCause if for the end of this song you wait
Thereâs only four seconds left.
Thereâs only one second leâ¦
Demetrius Romeo: Rusty, the name âThe Scared Weird Little Guysâ was indirectly bestowed upon you by Al Pacino; is that correct?
RUSTY BERTHER: That is correct. Itâs a line from Al Pacinoâs movie called Cruisinâ. Heâs an undercover cop in the serious, gay world of New York at the time, and thereâs murders going on. Anyway, regardless of what the filmâs about, the line âscared, weird, little guysâ was in it, and we thought, âscared, weird, little guys; thatâs a weird grouping of adjectives â with âguysâ at the end â letâs call our group that!â We were searching for a name at that point.
JOHN FLEMING: Yeah, thatâs right. And we have a fear that maybe in New York âscared, weird, little guysâ means something different, so we havenât played in New York ever.
Music: âStaying Aliveâ in the style of a Welsh Male Choir â the Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Bits and Pieces.
Demetrius Romeo: Your new album Bits and Pieces is album number three. John, tell me where the title comes from.
JOHN FLEMING: Well itâs pretty simple, really. Itâs a whole collection of things from different places, all chopped up and not really contiguous, so Rusty suggested that we might call it Bits and Pieces because thatâs the kind of thing that it is, so thatâs what we did.
Demetrius Romeo: One of the highpoints of your live routine is where youâd do a version of Princeâs song âKissââ¦
Music: âKissâ done in reggae style â the Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Live at 42 Walnut Crescent
Demetrius Romeo: â¦You did it even more distinctively by inviting various different genresâ¦
Music: âKissâ done in Indian styleâ the Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Live at 42 Walnut Crescent
RUSTY BERTHER: We donât really do the âKissâ routine anymore, but weâve kind of morphed that idea into a thing called âStump the Scarediesâ: people write in and ask for a certain song to be performed in a very different style than itâs originally performed in, or even in the style of another song.
Music: âBorn in the USAâ in the style of Austrian Tyroler music â Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Bits and Pieces
Demetrius Romeo: I notice one of the tracks on the CD, âCleaning Out My Tucker Bagâ, seems to tip its backward cap at Eminem. Tell me a bit about that song.
JOHN FLEMING: Well that was a kind of âStump the Scarediesâ thing again â the song âWaltzing Matildaâ, what can we do with it? We said, âletâs do it in an âEminemâ styleâ.
Music: âCleaning Out My Tucker Bagââ Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Bits and Pieces
She came from St Kilda,
Her middle name was Hilda
And her dad was a builder.
When he could see the steam on his tea
He said, âYouâll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me!â
Yo, come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me!
Down came a jumbuck (baaa!)
And he was dumbstruck
He jumped upâ¦
Demetrius Romeo: There are a number of musical comedy acts on the scene at the moment. Do you see a reason for the rise of the musical comedy act?
JOHN FLEMING: Well I guess, in the most narcissistic way itâs because weâve been around for so long, weâve spawned a lot of acts. But seriously, weâve observed a rise of variety act over the stand-up comic for a while, and while thereâs always going to be more stand-ups than variety acts that are successful and successfully performing, there seem to be more variety acts coming up now.
Music: âWorld Leadersâ â Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Bits and Pieces
I beg your pardon, have you forgotten
One Osama Bin Laden?
Oh behave! He didnât shave â
Heâs been hiding in a cave
The US Army couldnât find that man
So they bombed the crap out of Afghanistan,
That crazy al-Keida Kookball
Demetrius Romeo: Whatâs the secret of being a musical comedy act, and successful?
RUSTY BERTHER: I think, donât take yourself too serious, number one; enjoy what you do; and I think, personally, we just try and be really good at what weâre doing.
Music: âWhistle Popsâ â Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Bits and Pieces
John: Tonight weâre going to use some of the most rare and difficult of the hand-crafted instruments: ladies and gentlemenâ¦
John & Rusty [in unison]: The whistle-pop!
Demetrius Romeo: Scared Weird Little Guys, that you very much!
JOHN FLEMING: Thanks Dom.
RUSTY BERTHER: Thank you Dom.
Music: âWhistle Popsâ â Scared Weird Little Guys, from the album Bits and Pieces
I played out on the street.
From far around they came.
The crowd, they clapped and cheered.
I won fortune and fame.
Using the [then-upcoming, he added some time in October 2004] season at the Sydney Opera House as an excuse, I present here an interview with Mick Moriarty, erstwhile plankspanker of both The Gadflys and Gud. Paul McDermott claims loftier etymology for the derivation of the name âGudâ, and who can blame him when, coincidentally, it happens to be an acronym for a medical condition. However, since McDermott was once a member of The Doug Anthony Allstars, it is a fair observation to make that phonetically, âGudâ is in fact âDougâ backwards. And Gud is going to have to live with comparisons to McDermottâs earlier comedy combo, whether he likes it or not. Longtime fans will note, and no doubt relish, the similarities between Gud and The Doug Anthony Allstars, particularly in songs that bear similar gag-structure. Case in point: âPeace Opusâ, which works the same way as âWhat Is It You Canât Faceâ. But if all you see are parallels between Gud and the Allstars, youâre missing out on a lot of fun. (And you clearly canât have been enjoying Tripod very much, either, can you? What with the put-upon guitarist whose one chance at singing lead is drowned out by the gorgeous one and the funny-looking one singing the backing vocals way too loud, the inability to sufficiently distinguish between a boat and a girl, andâ¦ well, Iâll save it for another blog entry.)
Apart from a Parramatta Riverside Theatre season during the Big Laugh Festival a couple of years back, Gud was, for a time, under-appreciated in Sydney. There was one year that two gigs were scheduled in the same evening but as the earlier one undersold, it was cancelled, and as a result, elements of the band were more-or-less rat-arsed by the time the later one commenced. It was still funny, and not merely for the wrong reasons â sometimes the between-song-patter went nowhere, at other times it went where it shouldnât and occasionally it seemed to go on forever, while the music remained as gorgeous as ever. It was a pity, though, that a larger Sydney audience just didnât seem towant to know or appreciate a combo that can play brilliantly and have you cacking one minute and getting all misty-eyed and sentimental the next. And then laughing even harder again thereafter because of the presence of the seemingly nice, gooey bits.
A fine 2003 Melbourne International Comedy Festival run was followed by a fantastic sell-out season at the 2003 Edinburgh Fringe Festival which, upon their return to Australia, led to sell-out seasons in Melbourne and Sydney in the so-called âFamous Spiegeltentâ. Back from another great Melbourne International Comedy Festival season, they hit Sydney tight and triumphant, so you should probably be booking tickets now. (The season opens April 23 â a Radiohead gig precludes my attendance on opening night.)
This interview with Mick Moriarty took place and was broadcast on ABC NewsRadio during The Gadflysâ Sydney residency at the Spiegeltent in December 2003, which, if not concurrent, must have been contiguous with Gudâs own. My inability â at that time â to structure directed interviews that dealt with one topic instead of rambling through many (a bad habit learnt through years of self-tutored print journalism, still being painfully un-learnt through tutelage in radio journalism) necessitated the use of narration to tie the edited bits together. But it hangs together pretty well, as the MP3 sound file will attest.
Music: â Long Time Goneâ â The Gadflys (from the album Out of the Bag)
Narrative: The Gadflys began in the 1980s as a three-piece punk band founded by brothers Mick and Phil Moriarty. Normally, âpunkâ means distorted guitars and loud drums playing as fast as possible. For The Gadflys, it meant a double bass, guitar and clarinet playing an eclectic mix of pop, rock, country and ballads.
The trio made its mark first as distinctive buskers, then as a popular pub band. Over the years the Gadflys have grown from the basic trio to a big band with horns, keyboards and backing vocalists. Now theyâre touring again as a trio, each playing several instruments.
When I caught up with guitarist and vocalist Mick Moriarty, I wanted to know how having a double bass and a clarinet in your band affects the sort of songs you can play live.
MICK MORIARTY: Some songs over the years on Gadflys albums have just never really gone live because theyâre probably a bit more rock. Theyâre hard to pin down with the sort of instrumentation that we have and the acoustic ethic that we use. But itâs really exciting, often, to âadjustâ a piece to that. Itâs kind of fun for me, and hopefully, for the audience. Hopefully theyâre not just going to go, âhang on, thatâs not like it is on the record! Whaddaya mean? Whaddaya doing? I want five bucks back!â
Demetrius Romeo: Itâs been a little while since the Gaddies released an album. Are you doing any studio work at the moment?
MICK MORIARTY: After the last album, that was a really tragic album as it turned out â not that it seemed that way while we were recording it â â¦
Demetrius Romeo: Why was that?
MICK MORIARTY: Because Andy Lewis, our bass player, killed himself shortly after recording was finished and before weâd even mixed it. And as it turned out, the engineer killed himself. It was appalling. It was so sad to lose friends, but just to contemplate these poor buggers so sad that they canât see a place for themselves in the world. It was last year in Edinburgh that we got back to this three piece and found the enjoyment again. Since that time, Iâve been writing a lot, Philâs been writing a lot, and now weâre talking about a new album.
Demetrius Romeo: When Andy Lewis died, he was your original double bass player. Youâre now playing double bass. Was it hard to make the transition from guitar?
MICK MORIARTY: After Andy died, we had another guy, an old friend of mine called Elmo whoâd played with us in years past, play double bass. Then we were going to Edinburgh and he couldnât come because he had family commitments. So Pete Kelly and I decided that we would learn to play double bass. When I picked it up I just went, âhang on, why have I left this alone so long?â I really loved playing it and so I started playing with the Gadflys and by the end of that Edinburgh season I was going, âthis is fantastic!â
Narrative: The Gadflys became well-known when they started appearing on the television show Good News Week in the late 90s. Paul McDermott, who hosted Good News Week, had been a member of the comedy troupe the Doug Anthony Allstars. Like the Gadflys, the Doug Anthony Allstars began as a punk group in Canberra in the 80s. Mick Moriarty and Paul McDermott began writing comedy songs together, which they then performed in their new band, Gud.
Music: âWrong Numberâ â Gud (from the mini-album Gud â Official Bootleg)
Narrative: Mick Moriarty says that playing in Gud came as a welcome change from playing in the Gadflys.
MICK MORIARTY: It was great fun because it was just so away from everything I had been doing and writing comedy songs is such a different kettle of fish to trying to say what you think about yet another broken relationship or something. It was just a really enjoyable chance to apply myself to the things that I could do and learn about the things I hadnât done.
Demetrius Romeo: There was material earlier in your career that did lend itself to a bit of a comic edge. For example, very early on you were doing a cover of âDonât Sleep in the Subwayâ.
MICK MORIARTY: I was quite fond of Petula Clark, and âDonât Sleep in the Subwayâ I think is a fantastic song. It was not so much âlooking for the comedic edgeâ as not taking yourself too seriously, and taking the piss, but not âhereâs the laugh bitâ or âthis is a funny songâ but âthis is a novel approach to a songâ. I still think itâs a great song. Tony and Jackie, if youâre listening, congratulations on your early work.
Music: âDonât Sleep in the Subwayâ â The Gadflys (from an ever-so-slightly crackly 7" single!)
And just in case you need to know more, here is a Gud interview with Paul McDermott, from a few years back, that first appeared in an issue of Revolver. Canât remember the title, and canât be bothered digging out the yellowing, dog-eared hard copy. Oh, I know what Iâll substitute it withâ¦
âOne of the best things about working with people is gaining that awareness of how someone else is thinking: knowing what theyâre about to do,â Paul McDermott explains. âSometimes that doesnât happen for a long time, people gaining that understanding and knowledge of each other.â
In the case of âGudâ, the band and show consisting of Paul McDermott, Cameron Bruce and Mick Moriarty, the trio seems to have gained that awareness in no time at all, and the proof is in the way they each take it in turn to lead and follow the often improvised shenanigans that punctuate and interrupt songs ranging from silly to satirical to sweet. By the last night of a very short preview season at Parramatta, Gud was slick, and the Melbourne run has garnered full houses and rave reviews. Paul concurs that the three âseem to have clicked straight awayâ. However, it shouldnât come as much of a surprise.
Mick Moriarty, looking â and sometimes sounding â like the resultant offspring of a union between Keith Richards and Jeff Beck, is a member of The Gadflys, who served as the house band on Good News Week. He and Paul both hail from Canberra, where, during his Doug Anthony Allstars days, McDermott âmore or less knewâ of Mick. Paul had seen The Gadflys in all of their incarnations, and recalls âsharing pintsâ with them at past Edinburgh Festivals. Gud developed out of Paul and Mick hanging out and writing songs, initially with Paul Mac. After Good News Week ended, McDermott spent the ensuing year trying to devise a show for the Festival, and Mick suggested they take their songs on the road.
Prior to joining Karma County, his most recent gig before Gud, Cameron Bruce was no stranger to the world of musical comedy. He played with the feel-good fun band âThe Fantastic Leslieâ and his keyboard stylings have accompanied many a Theatresports stoush. McDermott got to see Cameron a couple of times in his capacity as the Club Luna house bandâs keyboardist on Sunday nights at the Basement. Bruceâd tickle the ivories on outrÃ©, funked up covers of songs like âWalk Like an Egyptianâ and âIslands in the Streamâ, looking like some hatless cross between the Muppetsâ Dr Teeth and the musician he was based on, Dr John.
The title âGudâ was derived from McDermottâs realisation, while watching the Grammy Awards ceremony, that âevery single person who came up on stage was going, ââ¦and Ahâd lahk tâ thank Gudâ¦ââ. Thus, he decided, heâd better put a band together called âGudâ.
There is a point in the show where McDermott invites requests from the audience, and without fail, an Allstars fan will request a DAAS song. âI donât really mind,â Paul says. âThey can request whatever they want. We wonât do any of the old songs, but I donât mind them requesting them.â Paul canât blame them, really: there are some songs that bear an unmistakable similarity to Allstarsâ material, particularly in gag structure, so those inclined towards sentimentality are more than likely to want to reminisce.
âGudâs the same sort of thing as the Allstars,â Paul acknowledges. âItâs musical comedy, and itâs quite aggressive musical comedy. I like that form of expression. I feel comfortable doing it. But there are also massive differences.â Rather than closely analyse the differences and similarities, itâs probably better to note that, at least from McDermottâs point of view, Gud is as much fun as the Allstars and Good News Week were to do. âI loved working with Tim and Rich, and I loved working with Julie and Mikey, and I really am enjoying working with the boys,â he says. However, Gud seems to have covered more ground in a shorter time than its comedic predecessors. âItâs exceeded my expectations,â Paul says. âItâs gone extraordinarily well on its first outing, so Iâm really, really happy. Gud is a great outfit and great fun to work with. The combination of the three is greater than the individuals and what weâre doing now is growing at an exponential rate. Itâs like a Nimbin crop, out of control.â
And like that Nimbin crop, Gud will make you laugh uncontrollably for hours on end. See for yourself when Gud performs.