The Mentals’ Greedy Smith on why Perth’s live music scene rocks
Perth has long fought the Dullsville tag, but it seems our fair city has a rather high-profile champion in Mental As Anything rocker Greedy Smith.
“Perth people will come out to see a band. That’s why we come over so often because it hasn’t lost much of that, it’s a great place for live music. We know, because we play all over the country,” he said.
The band will be back in the west to play alongside a host of iconic Australian musicians for a special Australia Day Eve concert.
While this upcoming trip will only be a whirlwind visit, Smith said he had been singing the city’s praises overseas as early as 1982.
“Of all the cities on Earth, Perth would have had the biggest music scene per capita – it was just enormous in the late 70s and early 80s.
“When I was in [Los Angeles], I pulled out a copy of the Sydney Morning Herald and they were astounded to see a thousand different musical items happening over the weekend in the Sydney area.
“I told them that’s nothing, Perth has twice as much as that, people really used to go out.”
Despite having recently celebrated his 59th birthday, Smith and his fellow “Mentals” still tour continuously.
“The night before we play Perth we’re playing at the Cronulla Leagues Club in Sydney, so we’re getting around,” he said.
“On Australia Day proper we have a show in Dubbo, so we’ll be flying out early in the morning from Perth to Sydney then lugging our gear over to the other terminal and heading up to Dubbo to do a show there. We’re quite busy.
“We love it, it’s what we do. For us it’s a case of finding as many different types of venue as we can, the variety is really good. You get different challenges, but different rewards from playing at the restaurants, or the stadiums.”
Smith said he was given the nickname “Greedy” after “eating 15 pieces of KFC chicken while playing” in the band’s heyday, but that his on-stage antics had changed somewhat over the years.
“A lot of the time I’m boiling copious amounts of water for my tea machine which I have on stage with me, which is a bit of a change,” he laughed.
“I still go through the ritual of looking at my suit and asking myself if it needs an iron. Am I going to do it? I don’t think so.”
The upcoming concert will also feature the likes of Icehouse, James Reyne and Diesel.
“Playing with Icehouse is great. We did our first two records with Regular Records and it was like the birth of a record label, the birth of two bands recording, so we have a big history with Icehouse going way back,” Smith said.
“The thing we get off on now is playing the songs properly. It’s come to the stage where some of the people who are hearing us now never heard us live in the 80s, they only know the record, so we feel obliged to replicate that sound. We get it right most of the time and that gives us pleasure.”
A number of Mental As Anything’s greatest hits are likely to be on the set list, including Live It Up, a song Smith said he wrote in Canada but “took two years to get the song right”.
It succeeded on the Australian charts in the 1980s, but reached an international audience after it featured in the film Crocodile Dundee.
“I was asked to write some other music for the film, there’s an instrumental in there called Sloppy Croc, then just when they were doing the final cut of the movie Paul Hogan liked Live It Up from the radio so they just put it in at the end,” Smith said.
“Before that, none of the [European] radio stations would play it, even though it had been a hit in Australia, but we put a picture of Hoges on the single bag and Bob’s your uncle, they all play it and it’s a hit.”
Mental As Anything will perform a set at the Australia Day Eve Concert at Red Hill Auditorium on 25 January. Tickets are available here.