The Moodists
Interview with Clare Moore, David Graney, Handsome Steve Miller and Chris Walsh.
By Chris Hollow


Before Dave Graney became the Golden Wolverine, the Savage Sportsman or the El Supremo King of Pop he was the big haired, cherub faced lead singer of the Moodists. A band with all the ingredients for cult status – a great name, a good look and fine songs.

Unfortunately, over the past decade the Moodists have been all but forgotten. At best they’re a footnote when discussing the later success of Graney and Clare Moore. Buried deep on the resumes of producer Victor Van Vugt and Dirty Three guitarist Mick Turner. A vague memory for anyone who can visualise W. Minc Records mogul Handsome Steve Miller flaying away at a Flying V guitar.

Yet the band lasted seven years – mostly spent in London - cutting two albums, a mini-LP, three EPs and a fistful of singles. To help re-introduce the Moodists to a new generation W. Minc has just released a 2cd-compilation "Two Fisted Art" and the band is re-forming for a one off show at the Tote.

The career of the Moodists can be roughly split into two halves. The first lasted from 1980 to ’85 featuring Turner and the distinctive bass playing of Chris Walsh. The second with Malcolm Ross and Dave McClymont from Scottish pop group Orange Juice on board, lasted barely a year.
The nucleus was Graney, Miller (both from Mt. Gambier, SA) and Moore (from Adelaide). They met in Adelaide in the late 70s before moving to Melbourne in 1981.

Have the Moodists been a forgotten band?

Chris: Yeah, I think so.
Steve : I tend to think we weren’t that popular to start with.
Chris: The reason for the compilation coming out was more a vanity thing than anything else. But the more I heard it the more I realised we were a great band.

Why would anyone care that the Moodists get back together?

Chris: They wouldn’t.
David: We’re expecting at the show there will be a lot of old time weirdos there and we hope so.
Clare: We’ve had some good reaction with the record so far. People seem to think it doesn’t really sound like anything from that time which is interesting.
David: We never suffered from any 80s production forced on us like our contemporaries so the record sounds just like our band did. It’s like we escaped onto tape and it sounds pumping to me.

Why has it taken so long to get your music back into print?

Clare: It had to be us doing it. We’d lost contact with the original record company – I don’t think they’re alive.
David: It’s not like you were saying before – asking us is there a demand for it? Who’s going to come? What’s it for? It was like in the original band – we just wanted to do it. When we got the live discs that seemed to spur us on.

Steve, did twist your own arm to put it out on your record label – W. Minc?

Steve: There’s been a lot of sleepless nights but it does mean we can do it ourselves. But there always seems to be a spanner in the works. I love the cover but it’s cost the label much more than we thought. But that’s the Moodists.

As a band you spent most of your time in the UK. Is this compilation going to be released there?

Steve: Yeah, in March.

Most of the tracks on the compilation weren’t released in Australia at the time – why was that?

David: I think when we left here to go to the UK we jumped straight into it and never really expected to come back
Chris: It’s true, we did.
David: I was always surprised when I’d talk to people in the Triffids and that at the time and they still had flats in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney that they were paying rent for whilst living in London. But we were existing wherever we had our feet on the ground. We had very few ties with the Australian music business and we thought "fuck it – we’re going over there it looks like more fun".
Clare: The only thing we had to look forward to over here was to get bashed up by the roadies of some Oz rock band at the Village Green Hotel. That would’ve been our fate. Maybe the Frankston Pier.

Bruce Milne (Au Go Go Records) has said that The Moodists didn't come from inner-city Melbourne and he couldn’t work out whether you were unbelievably cool, or just weird...

David: That sounds very good. Bruce occasionally says intelligent things doesn’t he?

Chris you didn’t come from South Australia. How did you hook up with the others?

Chris: No, I was from Melbourne playing in a band but I’d seen them play live and was totally impressed and one drunken night went up to them and said "look ditch the bass player and I’ll join". I, of course, completely forgot about having said anything and a week or so later Steve told me I was in.

So were they unbelievably cool or unbelievably weird?

Chris: They were unbelievably cool before I joined them then they got unbelievably weird after.

Dave, in the past you’ve been a little reticent about your work in the Moodists – what’s made you embrace it in recent times?

David: When I heard the Moodists stuff I would hear my much younger self and what I was trying to sing about was all very ambitious. Other people hear it as just a whole thing but I could hear every word. Then I started to listen to it from a different perspective and I got to like the words I was singing too because I was a bit more removed from it. Some sort of shift happened you know.
Chris: I guess the main difference was we never claimed to be musicians and watching a video that was handed to me recently I realised we didn’t play our guitars we attacked them. The best musician we had was Clare who could actually play.

As a band you’re always compared to the Birthday Party. How do you feel about those comparisons?

Steve: I really like the Birthday Party.
David: It probably used to shit me off more in those days but it’s not such a bad thing to be compared to because they were pretty fierce and pretty charismatic.
Clare: It did get a bit tiring in England…
Chris: … it was a pain in the arse.
Clare: …but in Britain when they’d write about us they’d also mention the Go-Betweens and the Triffids which we were nothing like. It was just piling Australians together in the same bracket.
Steve: People used to try and lump us in with goth bands.
Chris: It basically cements that whole thing of no-one knew where to place us and they’d come up with feeble comparisons. I think if anything, we were closer to Suicide.



















Tell us about the video for "Double Life".

David: We discovered some video of us just hanging about at a gig in London that Mick Harvey (Birthday Party, Bad Seeds) took. It's quite odd looking at pictures of ourselves from seventeen or eighteen years ago. Just sitting around talking.

"Thirsty's Calling" (the band’s debut LP) is commonly referred to as the band's high water mark.

Clare: The one that came after that ("Double Life") was actually released unmixed whereas "Thirsty's Calling" was completed by us. ‘Thirsty’s Calling’ was our first opportunity to get into a real studio and have the drums in a big stone room, the bass in it's own area. It was a real escape from the local studios.
Chris: Motorhead had been in there just before us.
David: And the Yardbirds had re-formed and were hanging around. They'd stupidly called themselves A Box of Frogs. I really like "Double Life" and I think we all thought if we could've finished "Six Dead Birds" it would’ve been quite mighty. I think it's still quite good.
Chris: I personally think if we'd continued to write in that vein it would've blown "Thirsty's Calling" out of the water.
David: We're doing a few songs live from this later period. One's called "Take the Red Carpet Out of Town" that we recorded after Chris left. Songs were getting more arranged and had different melodies, chord structures – a different way of writing songs I guess.

Chris, you left the band in 1985 – why was that?

Chris: Next question. No, I sort of left like a bloody coward because my girlfriend at the time had an air fare out of town and a few things had not gone well. It was something that turned up very unexpectedly and I just took the ticket and ran.

What did you think of the Moodists stuff after you left?

Chris: It was curious actually because I remember at one stage being reduced to working at a factory in Collingwood and they use to have the radio station playing the whole time and ‘Take the Red Carpet Out of Town’ came on the radio and I was there thinking "I remember this song but I don't think that’s me playing it". It changed direction, took a different slant. It wasn't just bass and drums with this overlay of chaotic guitar. I certainly didn't sit around playing them all
the time.
David: I don't mind some of the later period. We only put one song on the compilation because sonically it told more of a story. There's not much of the record "Engine Shudder" either.

You were actually the first Australian band on Alan McGee’s Creation label (Jesus & Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Oasis). Are any of those tracks on the compilation?

David: No.
Clare: He’s rich enough that bloke.
David: It wasn’t a very happy time. They use to record very cheaply. It was a shock after the great studios we'd been in. They'd throw you in this rat-infested studio under Waterloo fuckin' Bridge for a midnight to dawn session.
Clare: It was about 40 degrees.
David: Tuning was impossible.
Chris: Hence the Jesus & Mary Chain.

The Moodists live is going to be quite a different experience to what the Dave Graney Show have been doing over the past couple of years. No acoustic guitars, fingerbells …

Chris: It's going to be fuckin’ loud.
David: All that's there just hidden under a wall of ugly noise.

Dave, as a Moodist you were a very active frontman. Will you be tapping back into those old pixie toes ways?

David: I don't know we'll have to see how it goes.

Is Mick Turner (later of the Dirty Three) going to be involved?

Chris: Rumour is he will be.
David: He'll be playing on the songs he recorded. We'll be doing the early ones before we picked him up out of the gutter and showed him where the stage was.
Chris: Though despite our best efforts we could never really change his fashion sense.
David: His next band after us had no bass player or singer so Chris and I felt very …
Chris: …left out.
David: …sad.

What about Malcolm Ross and David McClymont (both ex-Orange Juice). Are they being flown out?

David: David lives in Melbourne so hopefully he'll come along. Malcolm's busy in Edinburgh.

Any plans for any new recordings?

Chris: No.

Over the past ten years the band has only really been mentioned in whispers and footnotes. Do you feel the compilation and one off show will help re-dress the way that the band is viewed?

Chris: Good question.
David: Hope so.









Here be an interview with Chris Walsh in 2003   Click on the image to go top the WMinc site to purchase the new CD.

What the papers say about "Two Fisted art" in 2003.

What was said at the time. Words that were wrote from way back then.

David Graney tries to explain where the songs were comin' from , here....