Jimi “The Human” Hocking – The Screaming Jets ‘Covering The Greats’

If you’ve been following Aussie Rock for years, chances are you grew up listening to the greats like The Angels, Chisel, Icehouse and these blokes, The Screaming Jets. A band who have cemented themselves as a touring and recording force loved by their ever-popular arms of fans across Australia and beyond. The lads are about to hit the road for their Gotcha Covered Tour, playing a whole bunch of classic Aussie tracks by the bands who paved the way for them to thrive in the 80’s rock scene, so we grabbed Jimi “The Human” Hocking to see what they’ve got in store…

How are you Jimmy ?

Im very well!! How’s it going? Are you getting away with it?

I sure am mate!

Thanks for having a chat with us here at Wall of Sound, it’s great to catch up with you and talk all things The Screaming Jets and more importantly the upcoming tour. Tell us how will this tour differ from the Radio Riot tour that wound up a couple of months ago with Boom Crash Opera.

The Radio Riot tour started just as we had the “Gotcha Covered” album in the bag and it was starting to receive some good attention, but we really didn’t go out and play a lot of the Gotcha Covered album because it was quite fresh for a lot of people. We did a Jets set with a hint of what we were doing with the Gotcha Covered set. I think this tour and set we will focus more on the Gotcha Covered material as a whole to showcase the record.

On the Radio Riot Tour we had the fantastic Boom Crash Opera came out and toured with us. They were great fun to be around and on the road with; this time around we have Palace Of The King on the bill and also up north (Queensland) we will have The Poor joining us. Those guys are all friends of ours and we are getting away with it wherever we can (laughs) on the road. But this time around the set will be more focused on the Gotcha Covered songs.

That is such a killer bill for the tour. I love that The Poor are back out there and Palace Of The King are one of my favorite bands from this last decade. Do you have a favourite new band?

That’s a difficult one, because in recent years I have had young kids and am a late starter in the family game, and what that does is makes you disappear into the bubble of raising children. But I would put Palace Of The King up there, I work with and have contact with some on the newer, younger guitar players I have had something to do with the girls from Stonefield, we loved Tracer from Adelaide when they first came out. I wouldn’t like to pick just one favourite, I like them all and I am enthused young up and coming bands who embrace the classic rock motif. I feel like I am always giving people the speech that classic rock and hard rock is NOT dead by any means. Sometimes Television media, god bless it, would have us believe that the bands and style of the acts they have on these show is where music is at.

When I’m not on the road with the Jets I do guitar seminars where I can, and what I have found is that in a room of fifty kids, when I say kids they range anywhere between fourteen and twenty-two. When I ask these kids/students who loves AC/DC? You can always bet it is one hundred percent. Who loves Led Zeppelin? You can bet it is one hundred percent. If I ask them who loves Kanye West for example it’s about fifteen percent. So I am always saying that there is a big lie out there in a sense because even a band like us The Jets, are out there doing a lot of business. Playing good sized houses and shows which indicates that the Australian rock ethic is still very much alive and well and many of today’s young players are following that road map, which to me is great news.

Guys like Tim Henwood (Palace Of The King) I have known for quite some time, actually since he first started on the scene, although he is well seasoned I still consider him to be a younger player than me (laughs). They are travelling that path too.

As a part of what I do in music photography and journalism, I love the fact that it opens me up to so many new amazing Australian bands. Ablaze from Melbourne, Ragdoll from Western Australia, The Babes from Adelaide and Bad Moon Born from Sydney all seem to be carrying the rock torch proudly. Do you think that rock will cycle around again and become as widely accepted (for a lack of a better term) as it was in its heyday?

I really do think that is true. The album we did before Gotcha Covered, Chrome which was a bit of a cathartic experience for us in the band to get back together and record an album. At the time there was talk around why should we, is there any point, because no one really knew what the future of albums was going to be. Chrome did well for us and that encouraged my belief that a rock album could get airplay attention again, and some attention, especially when it came from a bunch of middle aged rockers like us (laughs). I also look at it being a door opener for so many other bands out there. The young bands you just listed are prime examples of what is out there; everybody can have a shot at it. It can create that zeitgeist again, so it’s good news in my eyes.

Even the attention the Gotcha Covered record has received so far is, I believe a gateway to rock n roll being mainstream again.

 

That leads me into my next question Jimi. The songs that were selected for Gotcha Covered were they picked because of how well known they were versus deep cuts and more obscure songs?

Well yeah that was really the M.O. (Modus operandi) for the album. It started out, and I hope I get this story right as it has become a bit convoluted in the last six months, with Triple M radio did a survey of their most played songs in the history of the station. They discovered that the most played single was The Screaming Jets first single ‘Better’ written by Grant Walmsley, which was great news.

They then compiled a list; they had listeners ring up and say hey “what are your favourite and top Australian rock songs of the last thirty two years?” This list of songs was originally considered for a compilation album if memory serves me right. Somewhere along the lines somebody had the brainwave to have the band of the most played song, us the Screaming Jets record versions of them and freshen them up for radio just as a thing. So we agreed it would be a good thing to do, so it was partly our idea and their idea, but none the less it was a good idea. I was thinking, well you know it would be a good BBQ record, the kind of record people would enjoy at a BBQ, they are all classic old songs and there is a lot to love about each and every one of them. I didn’t the album would be as successful as it is already; I just thought it would be a cool record to do for the summer kind of thing. Much to my surprise the record really does have legs of its own now, it was such a fun project to do.

That makes a lot more sense to the project; as a long time Jets fan, I was quite shocked to hear Gotcha Covered as it had me wondering why you guys did it. I must admit the album has begun to grow on me and now I will listen to it with the backstory behind it. It just seemed like a very safe project. I grew up with the originals, so I have a special association with them and quite a few for me were sacred ground so to speak.

(Laughs) I absolutely agree with you, the songs are all classics and that was the conversation early in the piece ”How are people going to feel about that?”. But at the end of the day, it was going to be release the originals, which we all love and are guys that grew up with these songs. Being perfectly honest, for me I knew most of the songs anyway as I had played them in cover bands when I came up through the industry in the early-mid eighties. The songs are close to our hearts and the fear is that people would have that kind of reaction and not be able to get around it, however at the end of the day I think that when people begin to understand what the motive of the record was it would be OK.

Do you have a favorite song on Gotcha Covered?

You know I was listening to it on the way home from the airport last night and I do like Razors Edge. We gave it a bit of our treatment, we didn’t change a lot of the songs in the end, but we messed around with that one and I really like the arrangement on that Pauly (Paul Wossen – Bass) gave it. Walls the old Icehouse track has been the one which has been the surprise live favorite when we have pulled it out. When we road tested a number of these songs in small degrees on the Radio Riot Tour, the reaction to Wall pretty well caught us off guard in a good way, so for me that has to be another favorite on the record.

For me the one song that has grown on me is Shadow Boxer, I just really love the arrangement and now has me thinking of the styles which could work with it. It’s just a well written, versatile song. I would love to hear someone give it a reggae treatment.

Yeah, you are right that halftime thing breaks down, it’s great. (laughs)

Given that ‘Walls’ and ‘Razors Edge’ are your favourite recordings on Gotcha Covered, is there a favourite Gotcha Covered song to play live?

I can’t single one out, but when we did Aloah Steve and Danno by Radio Birdman, it takes us all back to a good place, we all came up through the late seventies when Birdman were big on the scene. I remember being a mad RRR listener at the time and they were playing Radio Birdman. For me the song is the perfect amount of punk rock and hard rock and could be one of those great live songs.

I’m changeable, I might have a new favourite song next month (laughs) but for the moment it would have to be Razors Edge.

 

Was there a song you really wanted to cover for the album, but didn’t make it?

We recorded a couple of songs that didn’t quite make it on the album. Unfortunately we were pretty tight for time behind the scenes as we were between commitments playing wise. We recorded a version of Midnight Oils “Back on the Borderline” from Head Injuries which we all love, but as we sat back and listened to the final mix we were like, well you know the Oils are out there playing again at the time we were recording. We heard a couple of live songs from the tour and they were just killing it. So we thought let’s just hold off on it for the moment. We would love to release it at some point, but it lacked the intensity we were hearing in the Oils live versions. It would have been nice for that one to get across the line as that early oils stuff was just genius.

How easy would it be for the Screaming Jets to put together another set of songs for a Gotcha Covered 2?

I am sure that would be very easy to do. We found that we had more material than we thought we would have to work with anyway, and it’s a testament to the fact that there has been so many great Australian songs over the years. We have had such a long history of quality rock bands that it would be a no brainer to pick out another twenty favourites. There hasn’t been that talk yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we did something like this again.

You guys would have to be one of the hardest working live bands out there today. No sooner do you finish the Gotcha Covered Tour you are out as a part of The Red Hot Summer tour for 2019 for a month. Will the set for the Red Hot Summer Tour revolve around the Gotcha Covered Tour set in places like Tassie that aren’t getting the Gotcha Covered tour?

It’s hard to say, the set list tends to evolve during a tour. What we start out with is usually different to what we finish up with. What you think people will lap up, sometimes they just don’t so the set tends to take on a life of its own. Rest assured it will be the best set list for the show, we will have road tested so much more so anything is possible.

The Red Hot Summer shows are friendly competition (laughs) as no one want to come away thinking they haven’t given the crowd the songs they want to hear, so we are going to make sure the big crowd pleasers are there.

Thanks for your time Jimi, it’s been great chatting with you. Best of luck for the coming tours and I will see you in Tassie in February.

Cheers mate, thank you for your support. We are out there doing what we do and just love it so much. See you soon.

Interview by Andrew Slaidins.

Revisit Jets frontman Dave Gleeson co-hosting our Wall of Sound: Up Against The Wall podcast right here

Jets Tour

The Screaming Jets – Gotcha Covered Tour

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