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Asteroid B-612

 

It’s been almost ten years since Asteroid B-612 played a gig in Melbourne, but guitarist and founding member John Spittles says the band’s upcoming show at the Tote isn’t strictly a reunion show. “This isn’t a reformation show, or whatever you like to call it – because the band never actually broke up,” Spittles says. “People stopped asking us to play, and my brother was living in Perth, so we just stopped playing,” he says.

 

Spittles formed Asteroid B-612 in 1990 with original lead singer Grant McIvor on vocals. The band took its name from a Sonic’s Rendezvous Band song and its cues from the Detroit via Geelong garage rock scene. Asteroid B-612’s early gigs were predominantly on Sydney’s northern beaches, where the original band members had grown up. “After a while we were able to put on our own shows in venues in Oxford Street, and we were able to get people to come along,” Spittles says. 

By this time Spittles and McIvor had graduated away from the band’s covers-rich early set and were writing original material. “When I listened to some of those songs now they sound like a bit of a catastrophe,” he laughs. Eventually Spittles realised Asteroid B-612 had gone as far as it could in Sydney. “A lot of the bands we liked at the time were from Melbourne,” Spittles says. Spittles and Scott Nash headed to Melbourne to check out potential venues, taking advantage of a previous offer of help from Bored! guitarist Dave Thomas. “One of us had said to him that we wanted to get a gig in Melbourne, and he said to come down. So we did, and we just turned up on his doorstep unannounced,” Spittles laughs. 

Thomas was able to secure Asteroid B-612 a gig at the Barwon Club in Thomas’ native Geelong, which led to a show at the Great Britain Hotel supporting the Powder Monkeys and Venom P Stinger. “Then we went to the Tote, and Wally [Kempton] gave us a gig there,” Spittles says. “We ended up with four gigs, including a show at the Richmond Hotel, where we played to an audience consisting of Sean Greenway and his girlfriend,” he says.

A tour of the United States in 1996 was both fruitful and eventful, with tensions within the band seeing guitarist Stewart ‘Leadfinger’ Cunningham leaving the band at the end of the tour. “A lot’s been made out of Stewart leaving the band,” Spittles says.  “He’s a great songwriter and a great guitarist, but it just didn’t work out. The band was certainly quite hot at that time, but it was hot before hand, and it was hot after.  The fact that the band went away and came back without a member was the story.”

Spittles’ songwriting was already moving on from the fast and furious Detroit-garage style of the early Asteroid B-612 records. “I wanted to have music that was built around really good songs,” he says. He also concedes that his attitude wasn’t as healthy as it could have been. “I reckon I had a fairly large chip on my shoulder, and an axe to grind” he says. “The older you get, the more you realise that those problems are just your problem. When you’re younger you tend to blow things out of proportion. But maybe it helped come up with some half decent songs,” Spittles says.

After Asteroid B-612 went into hibernation, Spittles recorded a couple of records under the Johnny Casino’s Easy Action moniker (which featured members of Asteroid B-612, as well as the trash-talking Cosmic Commander from Rancid Vat who’d befriended the band during Asteroid B-612’s previous United States tour).  With Johnny Casino and the Secrets on a temporary hiatus in 2011, Spittles was approached by a generous promoter seeking to have Asteroid B-612 play a multiple sclerosis benefit gig in Sydney. “My dad had been hassling to see his grandson, so I realised I could kill two birds with one stone, so I rang my brother up and said why don’t you come out, and you can show off your grandson as well,” Spittles says.

Asteroid B-612 has already played a show in Sydney, an event Spittles says was extremely well received by band and audience alike.  “Benny said he didn’t remember it ever being that good before,” he laughs. “We had a few laughs, which is what we always did.  And when they didn’t happen, someone would leave the band.  Even with rehearsals we’d always just sit around having a beer and a laugh – in fact, one of the problems with rehearsals is that we spend all our time sitting around laughs and we only get around to playing three songs.”

 

ASTEROID B612 play a one-off show at the Tote this Friday April 1. See thetotehotel.com for tickets.